The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Dark Net had been sitting on my shelf for a while. Jamie Bartlett works at Demos, has written for The Telegraph and writes books looking at the intersection between radical politics and technology.

The Dark Net provides an overview of how politics and social forces have adapted to the internet. Bartlett is largely non-judgemental. In some respects it seemed to a series of essays that followed the Mondo ethos of documentary media. Something that’s factual, yet chosen for shock or entertainment. This was especially popular in the 1960s as these films competed for audiences against early television programmes across Europe and the US in the early 1960s. 

It felt like some of the content was put in to spice book up, which is the reason why I thought it was similar to Cavara, Prosperi and Jacopetti’s film Mondo Cane 50 years earlier.

Libertarianism was beneficial to the early web:

  • Privacy infrastructure including strong cryptography. This enabled everything from e-commerce and banking to secure communications. This has built new businesses, made banking and share dealing more convenient and helped protect people from authoritarian regimes. The downside is that it also makes criminal activity harder to detect than in the clear communications, but then so does a hand passed note with paper and a pencil
  • Fighting surveillance legislation – unfortunately authoritarian regimes caught on fast the potential of the web, so their efforts have been uneven

The Dark Net shows how the libertarianism that spawned the early web has:

  • Weaponised social interactions as the network of people online grew massively
  • Driven extreme marketplaces, due to the lack of regulation and lack of similar values with early netizens
  • Drove the development and adoption of cryptocurrency. More accurately facilitated the adoption of cryptocurrency. A lack of trust in offline institutions like banks and governments accelerated the adoption of cryptocurrency as a store of wealth
  • Facilitated reinforcing communities to encourage suicide, racial hatred and eating disorders

More security related content here.