Jihad and Terrorism on the Dark Web

The first subculture we will analyse are terrorists. The Dark Web and Jihadists seem to be made for each other – terrorists need an anonymous network that is readily available  yet generally inaccessible. It would be hard for terrorists to keep up a presence on the Surface Web because of the ease in which their site would be able to be shut down, and more importantly, tracked back to the original poster:

Terrorist organisations, too, are looking at [the Dark Web] as an alternative to more easily monitored forms of internet communication. In 2007, Mark Burgess, director of the World Security Institute in Brussels, warned that “too much focus on closing down websites could also be counter-productive, since it likely forces terrorist websites to go underground to the so-called [‘dark’] or hidden web”. (Andrews, PC Pro).

The Internet is a double-edged sword for extremists. On the one hand, the Internet is a valuable tool that can help organizations recruit new members while also disseminating information to many. On the other hand, as Andrews noted, the regulation of Surface Web sites pushes terrorists deeper into the Web, which can be good since it limits how many people can see their sites, but also makes it harder for law enforcement to track the sites.

Terrorism is often a condition of poverty, and this is noted in the formation of online deviant groups: “groups of individuals vulnerable socially, economically, and psychologically could provide a breeding ground for recruiting individuals into potentially violent movements, particularly for young people” (McDonald et al., 7). These vulnerable people are the groups that terrorist groups often focus on, since they are likely to work towards the goals of a group who are accepting them, such as a Jihadist group.

In understanding how these extremist groups work on the Dark Web, it is valuable to explore the work of Professor Chen of the University of Arizona, who has published numerous articles on Jihadist materials on the Dark Web. Chen and his team

have developed methods for tracking the spread of dangerous ideas through certain rogue and jihadi Web forums. Using a mathematical model known as SIR, used by epidemiologists to describe the transmission of disease, researchers have determined that the infection rate for becoming a suicide bomber is 2 in 10,000 […] The analyses of the Dark Web forums suggest that the longer participants are involved in a forum, the more violent their messages become (Ehrenberg).

As we’ve noted earlier, the web addresses on the Dark Web are hard to remember and subject to change. This is useful for terrorists trying to stay under the radar:

One of the characteristics of terrorist websites is their ability to manage rapid changes of Internet addresses. When authorities force a site to move, informal networks based on chatrooms or e-mail inform the group’s supporters of the new network address. This “word of-mouth” system to distribute new addresses to audiences is very effective. It reinforces a sense of inclusion in the group and of success in defying the authorities (Lewis, 114).

The Dark Web is overall beneficial for terrorist groups. While they may lack broad appeal that is available on the Surface Web, they can exploit the anonymity of the Dark Web to further their goals. This also relates to our original understanding of the Dark Web as an unregulated deviant space. Any terrorist website on the Surface Web would be instantly shut down, or at the very least, the host arrested. On the Dark Web, decentralized and anonymous networks aid in evading arrest and closure of these terrorist sites.

Next, Pedophiles

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