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  • The dark web, a subset of online content that requires specific software to access and is unindexed by search engines, turns 20 years old this month.
  • Because it’s less easily monitored, the dark web is best known as a hotbed for cybercrime and black market trading.
  • It’s also helped enable whistleblowers and revolutionaries across the world escape the scrutiny of oppressive governments and organize revolutions.
  • Here’s a look back at how the dark web has changed the world in the past 2 decades.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The dark web, a segment of the internet used by outlaws, dissidents, and hackers to share information without scrutiny, will turn 20 years old this month.

Generally speaking, the dark web is defined as all content hosted on darknets, or online networks that require a specific browsing software to access. It’s a subset of the deep web, meaning it’s not indexed by search engines like Google or Bing, and therefore less transparent and more difficult to scrutinize.

The dark web is most widely used as a black market trading post where people sell drugs, cryptocurrency, porn, and data stolen in illegal breaches. Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have repeatedly carried out stings on the dark web to arrest and charge criminals, but illegal activity continues to proliferate.

The secrecy afforded by the dark web has also granted activists and political dissidents a place to organize with less government scrutiny. Governments across the globe have made attempts to ban encrypted servers, while activists have defended encryption tools.

Dark web activity has steadily grown over the past decade. Tor, one of the most commonly-used encrypted routers, currently hosts roughly 80,000 unique sites, according to its internal numbers. 

The dark web has shaped the world, both online and off, in the 2 decades since it came into existence. Many of these events have been catalogued by GroupSense, a cybersecurity firm that monitors dark web activity. Here’s a look back at some things the dark web has influenced the most. 



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