Hundreds of would-be voyeurs sat at their computers Saturday, anxiously discussing whether this would finally be the time they'd get to watch a live streamed, scheduled torture-and-murder session.
The exceedingly hard-to-believe story went something like this: Someone kidnapped seven supposed ISIS terrorists, who were being held in an undisclosed location. Early Saturday morning, these terrorists would be killed and tortured for anyone on the dark web to see.
It was fake, of course, as these theatrical, livestreamed dark web things have thus-far turned out to be (real live streamed killing turn out to be more horrifying but totally unexpected, as we saw with the murder of two Virginia journalists live on air last week). Eileen Ormsby has a very nice rundown of the entire thing over at All Things Vice that's worth reading if you'd like to catch up.
As Ormsby mentions in her post, many dark web explorers are obsessed with going deeper—what's the most fucked up thing you can find on the dark web? Where are the murders and the kidnappings and the human trafficking? As such, you end up with an extreme amount of interest in "red rooms," which purport to be live streamed murders or tortures, like something you'd see in Saw or Hostel.
Here's just a small portion of what was promised:
"We are happy to tell you that we have executed two prisoners. The reality is not very beautiful or on our side right now.
Expect fun games, mingle and torture as promised. All interactive. Still fully free. We will make at least the first hour family friendly, and explicitly warn you before things get violent.
Changed plans about their final destiny, whether they live or die at the end of the day.
We won't stop under any circumstances, torture MUST become death."
Moments before the "murder" was to be streamed, the site went down, then came back up with a link to a very grainy and very not-murdery video. There would be no murder, and the whole thing looked like a pretty elaborate hoax. Hours later, the site claimed it was hit with an FBI seizure, but even that appears to be fake—perhaps part of the hoax. Motherboard has contacted the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and Europol, none of which have commented yet.
Since Saturday, Redditors have been obsessed with finding out what exactly happened: Was this a honeypot set up by the FBI to capture people who want to watch murder online? Was it a hoax? Was it a scam? Was it a plan to infect people's computers with malware? It's doubtful we'll ever know—these sites are fly-by-night and disappear as quickly as they show up. This wasn't the first and it certainly won't be the last.