Deep Web (Movie Review)

There is hardly a person on the planet these days that does not use the Internet in some form on a daily basis. By the touch of a finger, they are connected to sites like eBay, Facebook, and Twitter are all manner of places the average user visits without a second thought. Just under the surface of the Worldwide Web is the deep web, or dark web. Not unlike the black market, the dark web is a seedy underbelly, a conglomeration of people who are not happy with the way things are run by governments and institutions and wish to use the Internet for whatever they want without being watched. Deep Web, the latest documentary from Actor/Writer/Director/Producer Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure 1989, Downloaded 2013), features narration by Keanu Reeves (Speed 1994, The Matrix 1999) and delves deep within this clandestine virtual world. Released by BOND360, Trouper Productions, Zipper Bros Films, and EPIX, Deep Web pays particular focus on one site that changed forever how privacy and the Internet user combine. Featured at a number of film festivals, Deep Web made its television debut in the USA on May 31, 2015, and is scheduled for Video On Demand release on September 8th.

Still from Deep Web
Still from Deep Web

Society is a technological era, and never before in human history have advances been made so intricate and incredible. The web, as with anything else, can be used for both good and bad, and despite its moniker, the Dark/Deep Web is not all sinister. Amongst all the sites emerged in the depths is one that stood above the rest, Silk Road, now defunct. A non-stop shop for the purchase of any drug imaginable delivered right to one’s door, this site grew in a number of ways and received an astronomical amount of support amongst the deep web community – the anonymous marketplace. With the help of a software program called Tor and a unique virtual monetary system called Bitcon, Silk Road took in over $1.2 billion in sales in untraceable transactions. Effectively, Silk Road was taunting the Government and making a political statement: you cannot touch us.

It worked for some time. The reasons for the site’s successes were the same as the ones responsible for its initial downfall. The site did not just sell drugs; it had links to all sorts of illegal activities, though it drew the line at Child Pornography and would not have anything to do with harming another person. Along with the black markets aspects of Silk Road, the admin of the site, who called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts, also seemed to have an underlying libertinism view he felt compelled to share and did so with relish. He engaged visitors of the site in avid conversations regarding real underlying issues in society, and the interference of the Government. Silk Road ran undetected by the general public until a parent of a drug buying teenager discovered what was going on. This parent created enough noise to the right people and soon various three letter agencies were weighing in on the issue.

Still from Deep Web
Still from Deep Web

There was a overwhelming response among the “vanilla” Internet users, pressuring the powers that be to shut it down. Therefore, that is what began to happen. However, due to the way Silk Road was set up, it was not an easy process. Encryption software and privacy settings ensured that agencies such as the FBI were required to infiltrate the site in a number of ways to get proof of what was going on. This was just the start of where things took a sour turn. After some questionable investigations, a man named Ross Ulbricht was identified as the Dread Pirate Roberts. With the investigation in full force, the FBI and DSI were finally able to get other site administrators to talk, which lead to someone under the name of DPR to issue a hit on those involved and it all went downhill from there. Wired Magazine’s Andy Greenberg (Call Me Kuchu 2012) attempted to make contact with DPR on a number of occasions, and it was not until he came close to doing a story on an alternate emerging site that DPR finally agreed to talk. What Greenberg discovered changed the way he and others viewed Internet privacy forever.

Deep Web is a visceral, raw look at how the Government can persecute someone for doing the same thing they themselves do. Is the US really a democracy? With sites such as Silk Road continuing to emerge and the Deep Web intensions growing, one clings to this last chance of freedom and democracy. Interviews with former administration members of Silk Road, Attorney of Internet Law Cindy Cohn, lawyer Joshua L. Dratel, Ulbricht’s family, former FBI and DEA agents, and members of the community make Deep Web an enthralling viewing. Viewers need to watch Deep Web and to make up their own mind: was Ross Ulbricht truly the criminal mastermind the government and prosecution assert he was? Or was he a kind, loving, dedicated, passionate young man that was set up by someone else, someone whose family still wait for the day he is to be released. In the tradition of films such as The Fifth Estate (2013), Deep Web may pose more questions than it answers, but for all the right reasons. CrypticRock gives Deep Web 5 out of 5 stars.


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