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Buying Guns and Drugs on the Deep Web

We toured the dark web's Tor bazaars to find out just how easy it is to buy guns, drugs, and other contraband online.

If they've done anything, the leaks of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have proven that we are indeed living in a global surveillance state.

Not only has massive data collection from websites, social networks, and search-engine companies been going on in earnest since 2005. We know now that the NSA has been carrying out a highly-intelligent analysis of all this information—data that provide insight into our digital identities, that can reveal the innermost, most personal bits of information about our lives. In increasingly common, albeit extreme cases, authorities can use this personalized data against you.

To avoid surveillance, people from around the world have taken to anonymous web-browsing services like Tor, which disguise IP-addresses and create a long list of server connections that make it nearly impossible to fall victim to the prying eyes of the authorities. These networks are 1000 to 2000 times bigger than the whole of the searchable, so-called "surface" or "clear" Web, and are comprised exclusively of sites placed into the dark corners of the web on purpose.

Welcome to the "dark net", an unregulated space being used to a large extent to engage in illegal activity, discuss child abuse, search for information on censored topics, organize political action and, more and more, to buy and sell weapons and controlled substances. Of course, by sheer virtue of the dark net's anonymity it's difficult to be certain just who, exactly, you are communicating with, and to what degree offers and posts on various platforms and forums translate from the digital underbelly to the actual physical world.

VICE Germany editor Tom Littlewood went looking for where these two spheres come together. In Darknet, Tom speaks to a German weapons dealer about sales and distribution, and about how easy and reliable the system even is. Tom also catches up with cryptology specialist Karsten Nohl, founder Moritz Bartl, and Ehsan Norouzi, an Iranian journalist who helps activists communicate safety, on the positive and negative aspects of a virtual space.