Technology 3 min read

China Busts Dark Web Ring run by College Student

Alexander Geiger /

Alexander Geiger /

Last month, Chinese authorities busted huge domestic underage pornography ring operated domestically by a 19-year-old college student. While technology is most visibly enabling law enforcement in locating and apprehending illicit dark net activities, it is also important to consider what incentives help create such operations in the first place.

Technology is undoubtedly affecting every aspect of today’s society, enabling certain demographics and sectors in both positive and negative ways.  One clear example of technology’s more positive impacts is its use as a law enforcement tool.

Caught in a Dark Web

Edgy Labs recently reported on DARPA’s Memex and the success is has had in helping U.S. law enforcement agencies in locating and apprehending illicit dark web activities.

Edgy Labs recently reported on DARPA's Memex.Click To Tweet

Similarly, Chinese authorities enabled by better technological tools have also been ramping up on efforts to tackle dark web activities like sex trafficking and underage pornography in recent years. On from the 2013 Silk Road crackdown, Chinese Law Enforcement continues to demonstrate how effective they find and arrest darknet criminal elements with this most recent arrest of 19-year-old college student running an underage pornography enterprise.

Yes, the bust was largely enabled by technology like more effective dark web search tactics and algorithms, which are proving to be key in more effectively enforcing the law, protecting victims and apprehending criminal elements.

Even if better technology results in more arrests and more rescues, it is still only a treatment that addresses the symptoms.

What’s Driving the Dark Side

To truly address the problem of illicit dark web activities and the victims it claims, it is also important to consider what incentives exist for setting up virtual black markets.

The inability to download foreign materials severely restricts supply within China but does not account for the fact that demand still evidently exists.

The Chinese government is notoriously restrictive when it comes to domestic internet use, especially with regard to domestic users accessing certain foreign sites. The Great Firewall is the most famous example of such measures, and more than restricting user access to information, some human rights activist and international legal professionals have equated such tactics with censorship.

But, beyond the ethical and legal questions that such restrictive policies raise, there is also an economic question.

Content, including videos, seized from this unfortunate dark web operation was reportedly accessed or viewed over 20,000 times, and more than 30 victims were forced to take part, making it clear that domestic demand for certain materials clearly exists. However, measures like the Great Firewall cut off Chinese users from access to goods available generally on the web and dark web alike. By restricting access to an internationally available supply, have Chinese authorities indirectly promoted a domestic supply?

Therefore, is it possible that no access to foreign materials contributed to creating the incentive for a domestic industry?

Edgy Labs Readers: how do we go about reducing demand for such activities while maintaining personal rights to privacy?

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