The infamous website 8Chan is dead on the main Internet. 4Chan is still up, but one only knows when it may be shut down.
The former, known as “infinity Chan”, still technically exists, but it is now found on one of two places. One is the DarkNet via the TOR browser, and the other is on something being presented as a brand new option called ZeroNet.
From what I have heard, there are consistent reports from many people about some problems with people posting child sexual abuse material on the DarkNet TOR board for the 8Chan website. I cannot definitively confirm this because, for the above reason, I refuse to visit it.
But if you thought that things were bad, you have not seen anything yet.
Not until, ZeroNet.
I had never seriously looked into ZeroNet until the recent events of the last several days. I do NOT recommend using it, especially for forum-based websites, such as the Chans. It is my opinion that upon thoroughly investigating it, ZeroNet does not provide safety, but is a potential vehicle for the mass entrapment of people for things they did not do as well as providing for a level of direct surveillance even worse than what already exists on the regular mainstream Internet.
I’ll explain why.
Now the concept behind ZeroNet is very noble and good and it CAN work in many cases. The idea is that with ZeroNet, there is no per se set “server” that exists for a website, but rather a network of computers that provide for the service in cyberspace. In this way, it works in the exact same manner that file torrenting does- as long as there are computers connected to it, the site stays online, and those who participate in the website are also helping it to stay online and distribute it to others- a concept called “seeding” in torrenting.
This is a really good idea, it would seem. And it is an EXCELLENT idea so long as the website is not one that does not do user contributions through input- such as a forum board like 8Chan.
Many people have said that the two major chans- 4Chan and 8Chan -have people who attempt to “spam” the board with pictures of child sexual abuse. I have never experienced this, but according to some people it was a serious issue until about 2013 that moderators had to constantly deal with. There was even something called “sinkposting” in which perverts were taking images of child sexual abuse and encrypt them behind images of sinks, after which point people would “decode” the images using various programs in order to expose the filth.
When the images mostly stopped, they moved to posting links to such abusive material, usually under an offsite folder or something with a cryptic link title. Of course, one does not know what is in the link until one clicks it, but most people do not click such things because of the potential for unintentional exposure to such things.
This is how 4Chan and until recently, 8Chan functioned. In spite of the media sensationalism about them, the boards are relatively well-monitored, and the websites are known to work with police to help catch criminals if evidence on the board can be shown that such activity was taking place.
Now let’s consider ZeroNet.
The first problem with ZeroNet is that there is no moderation. Without moderators, it is a matter of time before people start posting such material because any concept of “absolute free speech” always leads to absolute anarchy and chaos of the worst sort.
Second, and the most important and dangerous one, any site you visit is automatically seeded by Zeronet while you are on it.
Think about that last point. When you are on, in this case 8Chan via ZeroNet, that site (8Chan) stay on because your presence on it as a visitor is also supporting the connection of the website to be on the Internet.
Your personal connection- through your computer -is also acting as a distribution point for the website.
Now let’s take a very sinister scenario- say that somebody wanted to distribute child sexual abuse material on 8Chan. Somebody goes to the website, posts a picture- just one -and leaves.
Now people from all over the world go to 8Chan. These people have zero intention or desire of accessing, seeing, or
distributing such abusive material. While on the board, none of them see or encounter in any way that photo. They go about their business and then leave. In fact, they never had any idea that such an awful thing was there.
But this is the sinister nature of ZeroNet, because (as I am able to understand from my reading) as long as you are on that website, it does not matter what you see or do not see, because the fact is your connection to it is serving as a seeding point for other people’s connections.
In other words, it is theoretically possible- I could not see if it could be proved definitively -that your personal Internet connection could be transformed into a pipeline by which other people could distribute such materials. This would make the individual user a “distributor” of child sexual abuse material even if he had no idea that it was happening, and thus make him potentially under law liable for prosecution.
People on 4Chan have also looked into this and have been pointing this out as well, such as in this thread here.
Now, let’s say that one goes to a website on ZeroNet that would have a very low likelihood of having any of such material on it (such as a non-forum) website. One is still “safe” because the site exists by connections, correct?
Remember that the website itself is sustained by the mutual connections of others.
Let’s say that the content of the site is not illegal, but contains material that might be considered socially or politically unacceptable.
What additional level of protection does such a network provide that one’s regular Internet connection cannot, as one can still be tracked through this connection? In fact, it is arguable that because one’s connection is not merely accessing the website, but is also sustaining it, that it makes a person able to be monitored and traced even easier.
ZeroNet does not provide more security. Arguably, it provides more ways to be monitored and drawn into a scenario where somebody is accused of something he did not do but unintentionally did because he did not understand the technical nuances of how the software works. I am not a computer specialist, but it took me time to understand and to fully think through how this program works and the potential consequences it could have. It is far more dangerous than anything on the so-called “darkweb” that one can access through a TOR browser.
It is out of the concern for the safety of the public that they should be aware that this “next generation” of the Internet, as it is being touted, most likely poses a serious danger and should avoid it.
ZeroNet is NOT the future of the Internet unless the future is “back to the future,” and specifically to 1984.