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ProPublica Launches News Site on Dark Web

By Richard Adhikari
Jan 12, 2016 7:00 AM PT

ProPublica last week launched what's believed to be the first major news site on the dark Web, according to Wired.

ProPublica Launches News Site on Dark Web

The site's purpose reportedly is to maximize the privacy of readers.

The Tor hidden service goes beyond SSL in that visits to sites are hidden from eavesdroppers and Internet service providers.

Anyone monitoring the various Tor nodes can track visitors who use a Tor browser to view ProPublica's regular site. Using the Tor hidden service retains visitors' anonymity, Wired reported.

"Wow! It gets pretty bad when you have to hide which news sites you visit," observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

ProPublica has not yet advertised the hidden site and did not respond to our request for further details.

No Taint From the Dark Web?

The dark Web is noted for hosting criminals of various stripes.

However, ProPublica's site "is positioned not like a dark Web underground site for criminals, but a news portal with high privacy for its readers and authors, which is an interesting idea," pointed out Andrew Komarov, chief intelligence officer at InfoArmor.

The real names of authors will be published on the site, so "they're not really criminals hiding from others, but people who want to have the right to a free press," he told TechNewsWorld.

"This project is a very interesting initiative to preserve journalists' and readers' privacy and also to avoid censorship of the mass media, which is global," Komarov added.

Sidestepping Surveillance

ProPublica's move appears to be a reaction to the increasing surveillance of private citizens by governments worldwide.

"This is happening simply because people are getting fed up with not having any privacy," technology industry analyst Jeff Kagan told TechNewsWorld.

"I happen to agree with ProPublica that you have to be poking around in the dark Web for your own protection," said Laura DiDio, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

"We are in a day and age when everyone's becoming more and more extremist," she told TechNewsWorld.

Privacy Is the Key

"With increasing concern about excessive privacy violations by relatively liberal governments like that of the United States, there's a far higher legitimate demand for the dark Web than there ever has been," Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

"When you become afraid of your own government largely because it's treating you as a criminal, then you are likely to begin using resources typically used by criminals to protect yourself," he said.

The FBI and the U.S. National Security Agency have been pressing cybersecurity vendors to rethink encryption of their products.

Senior officials from the White House and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, including FBI director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, met with Silicon Valley executives last week to discuss countering militants' use of social media.

Gentrification of the Dark Web

ProPublica isn't the first mainstream company to use the dark Web.

Facebook offers access on the dark Web, and public librarians have locked horns with law enforcement over providing Web access through Tor.

"The dark Web also has peaceful users trying to protect their privacy or fight for human rights," Komarov said, and ProPublica's "project is a great example of this."

The Eventual Blowback

Accessing ProPublica's site on the dark Web may spark surveillance, Enderle warned.

"If you're seen using Tor resources, law enforcement may immediately assume you're doing something illegal or dangerous, even though you aren't," he said.

"I can't see why law enforcement would care that much about ProPublica in the U.S.," Enderle said. "I think using Tor would be the bigger red flag."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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