Recent claims by prominent conspiracy theorist anchorperson Dr Shahid Masood have sparked a massive interest among Pakistanis for the buzzwords like ‘deep web’, ‘dark web’, ‘dark room’, ‘red room’, cryptocurrency and whatnot. This is evident from the spike in search trends for the said terms.
The disgraced anchorperson had claimed – but failed to produce any evidence – that the culprit behind 8-year-old Zainab’s murder operates in connection with an international racket that trades violent child pornography. He said the culprit had 37 foreign currency bank accounts with transactions worth millions. He claimed the culprit received money from rackets operating in eastern European countries and supplied violent child pornography on demand.
He first said the money was going through banking channels but when failed to produce evidence and upon being called out by prominent journalists he turned to the hot buzzwords that have become everyone’s favourite in the past week and said it was all a part of dark-everything and that the money was transferred through cryptocurrencies such as the Bitcoin. He really pushed it by saying that he has actually been on the dark web and seen all those notorious things he was talking about.
What added to confusion was baseless and dramatic claims by TV presenters-turned-social-media-experts like Waqar Zaka who said and did a how-to Facebook Live video carrying an extremely offensive title “Shahid Masood ? Here’s how u can see Zainab’s video on Dark web” and said he was doing this to ‘protect children’.
Before I tell you what those terms mean, let’s look at the search trends after the claims of the anchorperson.
1. Deep Web
2. Dark Web
3. Dark Net
4. Dark Room
5. Red Room
So the trends show a probability that you’ve already googled those terms so I’d keep it short.
What is Deep Web?
Unlike how it sounds, the deep web isn’t necessarily as nefarious as you might think. It simply means part of the World Wide Web that is not accessible to the search engines. Meaning that you cannot find it by googling it. There exist various estimates as to what percentage the deep web is of the total web but every estimate is a 90%+ so yes it’s true the major portion of the internet is ‘hidden’. But did you know you and I both use the deep web every day? You heard me right. All such pages which are meant to be behind a login/membership wall are also part of the deep web. So your private social media posts, internet banking details etc are all hidden from common users on the internet.
What is Dark Web?
The dark web is a part of the deep web that mainly contains encrypted platforms requiring special authorisation before anyone can access it. It includes encrypted communication meant to protect dissenting voices, activism and whistle-blowers. That said, it is true – as shown in studies such as the University of Portsmouth’s Gareth Owen’s – that the dark web has become a hub of illicit activities and a major portion of it contains child pornography scams such as assassins-for-hire, drugs, hacking services, phishing and scam and terrorism content etc.
What is Dark Net?
Often used interchangeably with Dark Web, a darknet is also a platform or application used to access and host the content of the darkweb.
Dark Room? Red Room?
I have no idea. Ask Shahid Masood but from what he said, these are apparently names of darknet websites carrying violent child pornography.
What is cryptocurrency?
TheFreeDictionary.com defines it as “a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.” Again, the cryptocurrency isn’t coherently bad but because it is not regulated by a central bank or state, it is susceptible to be used for illicit purposes.
Is it okay for you to access the deep web and dark web?
While your intentions maybe good but if you’re doing in response to what Dr Shahid Masood said then I’ll say just don’t! I have to warn you here that trying to access the illegal content online such as child pornography could land you in trouble. Simply searching for it – even if you’re doing it to see if Dr Shahid Masood was telling the truth – can raise red flags at the law enforcement.
The writer is the Digital Editor, Daily Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @FarhanJanjua