Business Insider received some criticism over the weekend from readers — and, truth be told, internally from our own staff too — who wondered why we published an article on how to hire an assassin on the internet.
The story describes the hidden services on Tor, an anonymously encrypted "undernet" that exists in parallel to the regular internet. It's used by people who want to surf the web in complete privacy and anonymity. It's also used by criminals to prevent law enforcement from tracking their web browsing.
Some of the web pages viewable via Tor offer hitmen for hire.
One reader, using the screen name "Shame on Business Insider," addressed his/her comments to the author, Dylan Love:
What's next Dylan, the secret underground web of child porn? Or in your twisted morality is that worse than murder?
You should remove this post. It's profoundly not okay.
One of Dylan's colleagues emailed to ask:
Are we sure we want to run this article? ... Kind of creepy and twisted, no? And it's our lead story.
I'm Dylan's editor, and I commissioned the story. Here's why we chose to do this.
First, the vast majority of people have no idea Tor exists. The fact that it does — and the fact that it offers access to what purports to be a vast, unchecked playground for criminals — is news. It's probably news to a lot of law enforcement officers too, particularly those not assigned to cyber-crime beats. People need to know this thing exists.
We previously published a guide to using Tor so that ordinary people — and law enforcement — can actually see what's going on themselves. We also noted that you could buy drugs on web sites via Tor in a completely untraceable way.
Second, sunlight is disinfectant. Ignoring Tor will not make its underworld go away. Nor will it cause fewer people to use it — it exists precisely because most people don't know that it exists. Ignoring criminal activity in the hopes of preventing it is a bit like ignoring a series of home burglaries in the hopes that the thieves would get bored of being ignored.
So, yes, some of the things you can see via Tor are unpleasant. We do not endorse them, obviously.
But they are news and the public needs to know about it.
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