Connecting to the internet isn’t something we think about: how we are using it or the way we engage with it… we literally wake up online and go. The internet we use in everyday life – Facebook, Google, Amazon etc – makes up a small proportion of the internet and there are different layers of the internet that can provide different obstacles and safety practices for you when using it. A common analogy to describe these layers is that of an iceberg, with the surface web being at the top of the iceberg and deeper levels below. This beautifully illustrates how small of a portion the surface web makes up, leaving a large swathe of the intent being in the deep waters. This doesn’t mean everything else below this is used for abuse, but rather it is there to protect your details online. Let us explore that a little more.
The top of the iceberg includes everything you think of when you think of the internet: news outlets, social media, online shopping and more. Anything from this segment of the internet is easily accessible and you can use simple searching tools like Google or Bing to find the data within them. This also means the data is accessible to public crawlers – something that grabs data from the internet – and it can be used in machine learning, AI and data analysis.
Making up a whopping 90% of the internet is the deep web. This is often confused with the dark web because they seem and sound incredibly similar but there are key differences; namely the use of the deep web is not nefarious but there to protect personal data. Unlike the surface web, you cannot find its' content on a public index like Google. To gain access to this you would need to be a part of the system, using log ins, paywalls etc. A primary example of this are NHS records; they are on the web, not accessible by the public but you can view them online if you have access to them – which you can if you use the NHS app and log in. Another example of a deep web internet space is OnlyFans, as you need to log in and pay for access, whilst still not being publicly indexed. Finally, any peer-to-peer messaging such as WhatsApp are also only accessible by the users within the chat and cannot be viewed or searched by members of the public.
Cue the scary music because now we are hitting the furthest reaches of the internet: the dark web. Though this makes up a small percentage of the internet this is where the most despicable things occur. The dark web is relatively untraceable – though arrests and traces do happen for illegal activity - and uses a series of encryptions in order to make this so. This blanket of anonymity allows for illegal behaviours to strife within it. Many users of the dark web will outline that its “un-governable” and that means it is a space for “free speech and internet use” rather than just being used to illicit activity, which is true, but this allows for things to occur that is also incredibly harmful like the sharing of illegally obtained personal details, drug marketplaces and selling of scams to name a few.
Its important to understand that by using TOR browsers (the little onion you see on the bottom of the iceberg) to access the internet will not put you on a “flag list”, but you can use TOR browser to access any level of the internet. It just means using things like TOR bowsers allows users to access the “un-governed” and unregulated parts of the internet that can be illegal.
Regarding the Revenge Porn Helpline, we only search the surface web for content as this is the spaces most accessible for everyone. Due to the amount of illegal content outlined within the dark web RPH do not currently have the clearance to work within this space.