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Title: The dark side of the Internet : a study about representations of the Deep Web and the Tor network in the British press
Author: Sardá, Thais
ISNI:       0000 0004 9348 973X
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2020
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The imaginary of the Deep Web is commonly associated with crime, crypto markets and immoral content. However, the best-known Deep Web system, the Tor Network, is a technology developed to protect people's privacy through online anonymity, in the context of the contemporary culture of surveillance, thus enabling civil liberties. To understand this contradiction, this thesis looks at the British press representation of the Deep Web and the Tor Network. An extensive empirical research study unveils how newspapers portray these technologies, by looking at meanings, uses and users. In order to meet this goal, this research conducts a content analysis of 833 articles about Deep Web technologies published between 2001 and 2017 by six British newspapers – tabloids Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and The Sun, and quality newspapers Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Times – and a critical discourse analysis of 58 reports mentioning the Tor Network, issued by the same newspapers, between 2008 and 2017. The findings demonstrate that the British press represents the Deep Web in a sharply negative way, through negative concepts, definitions and associations. This portrayal attributes opacity to the Deep Web, engendering distrust of its uses and propagating user stereotypes that reflect an overall criminalisation of privacy. Also, the press presents a hyper- panic approach by consistently connecting this new medium to well-known social anxieties and portraying these technologies as undesirable, immoral and illegal. Hyper-panic is the theoretical contribution of this thesis and can be explained as the way in which media panic (the Deep Web, in this case) multiplies moral panic (for instance, terrorism, paedophilia and drug consumption). Specifically about Tor, this work concludes that the media present multiple aspects of this system, from discussing the ways in which one can enable civil liberties, to condemning criminals hiding behind technology, addressing the inherent ambivalence connected to the uses of online anonymity, i.e. it is neither completely bad nor completely good. The general synopsis about Tor, however, is still negative. Finally, the consistent association by the British press between the Deep Web and criminal and antisocial behaviours promotes a dissociation between the Deep Web and the Web itself, in that cyberspace is separated between negative uses (the Deep Web) and positive uses (the Web), instead of being understood as a nuanced whole.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Dark Web ; Deep Web ; Media Representation ; British press ; digital media