Even though the Tor network was originally created by the US government, it seems like activities on the dark web and the interests of the federal government are always at odds with each other.
This is especially true in recent years, with the Trump administration launching direct attacks against the dark web.
Conflicts of Interest
The dark web has evolved into something much larger and more complicated than it was originally intended for.
Instead of being just a tool for the US government to use for secure communication, it has become a place that’s commonly associated with criminals and criminal activity.
It hosts hundreds of marketplaces selling drugs, weapons, fake passports and IDs, other forms of contraband, and services such as hacking or placing hits on people.
The stereotypes applied to the dark web are more or less commonly known. However, it’s important to acknowledge them to have a clearer understanding of the dark web.
This isn’t the only side of it, though, as there are a lot of positives that come with Tor usage. But if you only apply the negative criminal light to the dark web, it seems very obvious as to why the federal government is attacking the dark web. But like most things in life, it’s much more complicated than that.
There has always been some controversy and debate on what the official jobs of the US government are, especially in the recent presidential election.
The roles of governments are so vast and diverse that it can seem like they have no real main function. But this is not the case, because they do. The main role of a government is simple – to protect citizens and their rights.
Limitations and regulations on the dark web are complicated and can have many effects. For the most part, they can violate the right to freedom of speech or expression that every citizen of the US is entitled to.
The current US government administration has also launched attacks on many of the industries that the dark web depends on, such as the production and distribution of illegal drugs.
One of the Trump cabinet members responsible for a majority of these attacks is Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.
He’s a conservative who grew up in Alabama, and his views reflect that. Sessions is vehemently against the use of drugs, specifically with marijuana.
This gives validation to the people who accuse him of being racist, since the anti-marijuana movement has racist roots. The anti-marijuana campaign was made specifically against African-Americans and protesters.
So if the government is alright with violating the rights of people based on race, then they’re surely fine with violating the rights of people for other reasons, such as using Tor.
Stereotypes apply to every group of people, especially minorities.
If the stereotype of Tor users is that they’re all criminals, then an ignorant lawmaker will probably take action against them.
But what exact actions have they taken against the dark web so far?
Well, for starters, we all know about the net neutrality repeal. I might be a bit biased in saying this, but this was probably one of, if not the, most high-profile legal fight between the general public and the federal government, at least in regards to internet freedom.
In short, net neutrality requires all data to be treated the same. It prevents Internet Service Providers, also known as ISPs, from charging more money for different services.
This is very beneficial to customers, as they don’t have to think twice about accessing certain websites or apps.
For dark web users, this repeal can lead to some devastating changes. An ISP could charge more for the use of onion services, or outright disable them.
They could also secretly make onion sites load slower in attempts to make people get frustrated and stop using Tor.
If this happened, dark web users would have to turn to more conventional services, like Google Chrome and the clearnet, where their private information is much more easily accessible.
After the announcement of the repeal, there was a global movement for the rights of internet users, but Ajit Pai continued to argue that these users are harmed by net neutrality.
Along with Ajit Pai, Jeff Sessions has also made multiple propositions that go against the dark web. Whether directly or indirectly, a majority of the actions taken by Sessions have at hurt the dark web in some way.
Something interesting to note about Sessions’ fight against the dark web is that there’s a lot of collateral damage.
This collateral damage specifically comes from the war on drugs, which Sessions is adamant about fighting in. In the US, this war is leading to the brutal punishment of people who are guilty of committing minor drug-related crimes.
A good example of this is Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, who was given life in prison without parole, or the various state laws with high fines and years in prison for possession.
An act already passed by Congress was the CLOUD Act. Just like with net neutrality, this is another case of the Trump administration dismantling legislation passed during Obama’s presidency.
That, probably along with bribes from ISP companies, has led to this seemingly random overturning of Obama-era policies.
It’s not like there’s some bipartisan movement against the rights of internet users.
Another thing pushed by Sessions was the implementation of the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement or J-CODE.
This is a direct attack on darknet markets. This team is focused on stopping the darknet opioid trade by arresting dealers and buyers and shutting down marketplaces.
In the end, no matter what the US government does to limit the dark web, it’s become something impossible to control. No amount of laws or regulations can tame the beast that is Tor. No matter how hard the US government fights, this isn’t a battle they can win.
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