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Tor’s anonymity helps criminals by making it harder for the state to identify and detain them.
To reach it, you need a special browser that can access ‘Tor Hidden Services’ – websites that have chosen to obscure their physical location. Like the Isla de Muerta in the film , the landmarks of this hidden internet can be discovered only by those who already know where they are. One link might lead to a thriving marketplace for buying and selling stolen data; another, to a wrecker’s display of false lights, a cloned site designed to relieve you of your coin and give you nothing in return.
Stefano Bontade actually knew his murderers well enough to make them coffee before they killed him.
One consequence of all this bloodletting is that criminals must perpetually monitor each other’s statements for subtle intimations of betrayal.
The same logic is playing out today on the hidden internet, as would-be petty barons and pirate kings fight to tax and police their subjects while defending themselves against hostile incursions.
No entrepreneur of trust was more successful than the Texan Ross Ulbricht, who, under his ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ pseudonym, founded and ran the notorious Silk Road marketplace for drugs and other contraband.
The mob boss Toto Riina ordered the death of Calderone’s brother and then delivered a glowing encomium to the dead man at his funeral.
After betraying his close friend Emanuele D’Agostino to a mafia chief, Rosario Riccobono was rewarded with an invitation to a barbecue at the chief’s estate; he awoke from a post-prandial nap to find his killers looming with a garrote.
The network is used by dissidents as well as dope-peddlers.
If you live under an authoritarian regime, Tor provides you with a ready-made technology for evading government controls on the internet.
They have, in effect, built petty versions of the very governments they are fleeing.
As the US sociologist Charles Tilly argued, the modern state began as a protection racket, offering its subjects protection against outsiders and each other.
However, in making a market he found himself building a micro-state, with increasing levels of bureaucracy and rule‑enforcement and, eventually, the threat of violence against the most dangerous rule‑breakers.