When most of us think of the Dark Web, our mind goes straight to the worst-case scenarios. We think of hitmen, poison, illegal drugs and creepy red room videos. But these hidden corners of the internet aren’t all darkness and depravity.
You might not know this, but the Dark Web actually has a lot to offer. You can find educational resources and even professional news organizations. That’s mainly because it has a strong focus on privacy and encryption, attracting groups that want to maintain their internet presence despite censorship crackdowns.
It isn’t very easy, but we’re here to break it all down. First of all, you have to understand exactly what “Dark Web” means. Thanks to our sponsor ExpressVPN, here’s how the Dark Web can help you — and which websites you’ll find there.
Dark Web 101
First, the Dark Web is a part of the deep web. That’s the part of the internet you can’t access through regular search engines. You need to do some extra work to find it in the first place.
So, why is it so hard to access? That’s because the Dark Web is invisible to search engine spiders.
(In case you didn’t know, search engines are run by automated tools called spiders, which crawl around the internet, find interesting pages and throw them into your search results. But these spiders only scan the world wide web, a.k.a. the “surface web.”)
The Deep Web is everything that the spiders don’t find. Within that category lies the Dark Web. That’s content that website creators deliberately choose to conceal from search engine spiders.
According to the Journal of Electronic Publishing, you can find anywhere from 400 to 550 times more public information on the deep web than on the surface web.
How to access resources on the Dark Web
Basically, you need to install a layered proxy network like Tor Browser to find these sites. All you need to know is that this browser encrypts your data and runs it through several servers in different locations. Obviously, it puts a huge focus on your privacy; it’s all about making you hard to trace.
This is an appealing option for people who bristle at the thought of Big Tech surveillance. (In fact, we recently ran a survey and found that 86% of respondents are sick of tech companies sticking their noses in our business.)
On the surface web, popular sites are constantly working under the constraints of censorship. If they don’t comply with the demands of a central authority, they may be taken down. That’s why many companies back up their websites on the Dark Web.
Here’s a fun fact: Websites you access on the Dark Web are also known as onion websites. That’s because they don’t end in regular domain names like “.com.” Instead, they end in pseudo-domain names like “.onion.”
Website creators don’t have to pay fees to use them since they aren’t registered with any authorities. Instead, they’re generated through cryptographic keys. Cool, right?
You’ll find some familiar faces on the Dark Web
Once you get there, you can find a ton of interesting resources. In fact, our sponsor ExpressVPN found some of the best onion websites you can find on the Dark Web. Check them out!
It’s no surprise that a resource for activists would want to protect its tracks. Many people hold their passions in check out of fear of being doxxed by strangers online. Run by volunteers, Riseup is an email provider for activists in every corner of the globe.
Seattle activists founded it way back in 1999. Since then, it’s expanded to six million global users. Not only does it publish a multilingual newsletter, but it also runs Onion services for its chat and email services.
In that same vein, one of the most reputable media outlets is also hanging out on the Dark Web. In fact, ProPublica was the first major publication to snatch itself an onion address. ProPublica reporter Edwin Torres said there were many reasons behind the site’s 2016 decision.
Firstly, the team wanted to empower readers who wanted to avoid ad tracking. “I think it’s a public service to give your readers these kinds of choices,” he said. Of course, reporters also wanted to protect their work from being censored.
Interested in the history of the internet? This website is dedicated to preserving online culture. You’ll find screenshots of websites from many years ago. Basically, it lets you travel back in time and see how websites evolve.
You can use it to archive websites you want to look back on in the future. It’s also useful for retrieving historical records. Many people see it as an important tool, especially since you can see how government websites change over time.
You’re probably surprised to find out that this government agency is on the Dark Web. Funny story: Tor started as an invention by the U.S. Navy to help agencies posted abroad.
They needed a safe, untraceable way to feed information back to their country. “In that spirit, the CIA launched an Onion site to help people around the world access its resources securely,” ExpressVPN reports.
It might sound strange. Why would you visit one of the most infamously invasive websites on a privacy-focused browser? It’s not like you can be anonymous on Facebook. But if you’re in a country that heavily censors social media, Facebook’s here for you.
Take control of your privacy online
Big Tech corporations are supposed to handle our personal online data safely, but now they’re getting into the political game. I don’t want to be any part of that, and neither should you.
That’s why I trust and use ExpressVPN. These Big Tech companies match your internet activity to your identity or location by using your public IP address, but with ExpressVPN, no one can see your IP address — no one.