To those at odds with the current power structures dominating the surface web,
The internet we occupy now has lost its wild west spirit. It is fully corralled and confined, owned by a handful of powerful companies whose reach extends far beyond just our computer screens — who have become eager allies and supporters of everything from government surveillance to law enforcement efforts — contributing to violence specifically against black bodies. The Internet itself is now a tool of the elite, even though it at one point represented a new frontier on which to build a different sort of society.
I will propose in this short letter that we — those of us who consider ourselves at odds with the current state of the surface Internet as a site for surveillance and maintenance of the status quo — lay claim to the deep web as a site to express activist ideas now pushed to the fringes; primarily those of black, queer, and female liberation. I also propose that as we do this: we reject the anti-black association of darkness with nefarious activity and instead refer to the “deep web” as just and only that — abandoning the moniker “dark web.”
The surface web is now more than ever overrunning with racist, misogynistic, anti-black, and queerphobic hate speech. Those with the power to stem this — either because they cannot or are unwilling to — hardly attempt to curtail it. The number of hate crimes that are purported to have been concocted and encouraged online only continues to rise as the use of the Internet becomes more and more common. Those who attempt to draw attention to either these injustices or their IRL parallels, however, are often swiftly and brutally silenced — with activists such as six of those tied to the Ferguson protests largely organized on the web discovered dead under dubious circumstances — with 2 found shot to death in torched cars.
Since the Patriot Act’s passing in October of 2001 in response to the events of 9/11, our privacy as United States citizens has been under attack by our government in ways like never before: recall an incident in 2016 in which Yahoo was found to have developed custom software for the government that allowed the searching of tens of millions of user emails. By the passing of the Patriot Act, the United States government is now granted full “Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to terrorism” (Title II, Sec. 201), yet the definition of domestic terrorism provided is concerningly unspecific (SEC.802, a).
For all these reasons, the surface web cannot be considered a space for free thought!
The deep web, meanwhile, might be our last chance to return to the Internet’s original free spirit.
I am not proposing or advocating the use of the deep web as a means to organize violence. Rather, I am proposing that we claim it as a safe gathering place to express and rally around progressive thought. Though this letter does not include an answer to the problem of online surveillance, nor the ways in which our government retaliates against those who have made the choice to exercise their constitutional right to civil disobedience and free speech against the structures and systems that oppress us daily; it seeks to inform activists — especially those who organize primarily on the web — that they are in fact being watched… but that they also against this.
Your sister in resistance,
Shori Sims is a queer black woman originally from Maryland, but working and going to school in Pittsburgh, PA. They are interested in the ideas of girlhood — more specifically the girlhoods of queer black femmes, intimacy in the post-internet age, memory, and intersectional feminist activism.