Incognito, a darknet drug marketplace, purchased the news site Darknetlive in November 2022. They have since used it to suppress criticism and steer public perception in their favor. This shift in ownership is chilling Tor journalism, ensuring that an invaluable publication will one day be seized and censored by government: DeepDotWeb’s history repeating.
Darknetlive launched in 2018, the same year that Darkdot’s founder DarkDotFail began publishing. The original Darknetlive admin (whom we will refer to as “DNL1”) maintained a close relationship with our team.
DNL1 confirmed in a PGP-signed message to the Darkdot team that they sold Darknetlive to Incognito Market in 2022. Specifically, they sold the site to Pharoah, Incognito’s admin.
Darknetlive once kept a close eye on Tor hidden services and quickly shared warnings when sites were scamming or otherwise acting suspiciously.
No warnings have been published about Incognito Market’s many issues since the acquisition.
Few journalists cover the darknet #
For four years Darknetlive was a rare unbiased source of news for users of Tor hidden services (the “darknet”).
Anonymous communities are especially vulnerable to misinformation. There is a dark history of scammers, and even of government agents, making false and misleading public statements to people who browse Tor hidden services.
DeepDotWeb was the primary source of darknet news and safety information for six years. When it was seized by the USA’s FBI all of its articles were removed from the internet, our collective memory. Its publications were inconvenient for governments, exposing invasive investigative techniques and covering court filings that prosecutors prefer to stay buried and paywalled.
The USA seized the only reputable news site covering darknet safety and removed its content from the open internet.
Soon thereafter, Darknetlive, Hugbunter, and DarkDotFail launched their respective websites into the sudden void of safety content for Tor users: Darknetlive.com, the Dread forum, and Dark.fail.
Who speaks for the anonymous? #
News about “darknet” topics was once trendy. When Ross Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 for allegedly running the Silk Road drug marketplace, reporters went wild publishing over five hundred articles covering his case. When Silk Road 2’s alleged admins were arrested a year later, over a hundred articles were published.
Much has changed. Few journalists care to cover the darknet today - much less to report on its safety issues. Dozens of markets have come and gone, and to Tor users, mainstream media doesn’t seem to care when anything happens in their neighborhood.
Scams come and go, lies are regularly spread unexposed, and Tor remains an invasive playground for experimental network investigative techniques run by nation states, universities, and cybersecurity companies.
Nobody seems to care.
Sparse journalism is ideal for aggressive surveillance: abuses can continue.
Who verifies the safety of Tor users? #
The public is fed a narrative that Tor is dangerous, a technology for CSAM and terrorism. Many journalists are hesistant to even log in to see what really exists in darknet communities, there’s a perception of too much legal risk.
Meanwhile western governments have somehow developed a knack for seizing Tor hidden services. It’s unknown publicly how this is happening.
Stand for the lives of activists in dangerous countries. Contact our tipline if you have information about how Tor may be compromised: firstname.lastname@example.org - use Protonmail.
Surely the whitehat teams working to identify the physical locations of servers hosting “darknet” Tor websites do not want journalists poking around and encouraging whistleblowers.
Incognito’s Unprecedented Darknet Centralization #
These sites are all run by the same (admittedly genius) software developer.
Pharoah is centralizing the darknet to a scale that previous darknet market admins have only dreamed of. The Incognito admin is one of the fastest builders that the darknet has ever seen.
Web archives of Darknetlive indicate that Pharoah completely rebuilt the site within a week of purchase.
Centralization is dangerous in any community but on Tor it carries a heavier weight. When the admin of a site illegal in many jurisdictions runs any other sites, they all become vulnerable to government takedown.
Pharoah’s quest for power has all but ensured that their entire network of sites will be seized by a government or shuttered in a scam.
Centralization Fails #
Have no doubt, Darknetlive.com will disappear: a win for those who want darkness on the darknet.
An educated herd is inconvenient for the wolves.
Years of DNL1’s passionate contributions to Tor safety may fade away.
Incognito has suffered cryptocurrency withdrawal and deposit instability for weeks now. You know how this usually plays out.
Darkdot obtained an archive of Darknetlive’s original website and is committed to publishing it once Pharoah’s narrow genius inevitably crashes.
Pour one out for DNL1. If you’re out there friend, you are missed.