It is difficult addressing the culture of the Covert without calling up images from popular culture. Anonymous, by far the most well-known of the hacktivists, is probably the first image that comes to many people’s heads, followed closely by the recent articles concerning the crackdown on child pornography. Not surprisingly, many businesses and governments despise the covert, because their actions cannot be regulated. As a result, it is difficult to find a place where they are portrayed in a positive light, without using radical resources. Both there and “official” articles about them are biased accounts, highlighting a particular aspect of the culture. To evaluate the entire culture would require admitting that, as an unregulated media, it is simultaneously the most useful and the most dangerous part of the internet.
There are many different names for the habitat of the Covert – the Darknet, the Deepnet, the Dark Fiber, the onion network – and each word has a slightly different definition. The specifics of each of these do not matter much to me, at least for the moment. In general, the Covert communicate with each other and share files secretly, making use of programs like those that hackers use to conceal their identities. In fact, to be able to assure their security, many of them are programmers and hackers.
This entire topic is the source of a great amount of political debate. In fact, CISPA, a legislation similar to (and as many claim, more dangerous to the online world than) SOPA, is being voted on this week, and if it passes the Covert will be more vilified than ever. These multiple attempts to put a legal censor on internet communication in America has fairly recently become prevalent, in response to the internet’s involvement in such movements as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.
The Covert are the people who organized these events, who communicated with each other to organize revolution at the risk of being prosecuted by the powers they were protesting. The Covert are shielded from their identity, and therefore have the freedom to speak their mind, to tell others about the oppression they have faced. The Covert are the instigators of political change. There are Covert in China, publishing posts and communications against the censors of their government, which would most likely execute them if they were caught.
I personally have never been to the Darknet, because I do not fully understand the legal consequences of it, but I have heard accounts of people who have. The Darknet can generally be divided into two groups: the illegal and the anti legal. The illegal include the child pornography websites, the black market sites people can visit to order drugs or prostitutes. The anti legal include the protesters in oppressed countries, those who are crying out for freedoms the only way they safely can. Who knows, America could eventually become one of those oppressed countries, if and when CISPA and the further restricting legislation which will surely follow is passed. To pass legislation enabling the governments to fight the illegal will also empower them to silence the anti legals.
The bright side is that silencing the Covert is like taping a screen to prevent air from coming in. No matter how much tape you put on, the air will always find its want through the screens. It will just be more difficult for a time, until they adapt.