The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett, narrated by Matt Bates

I consider myself reasonably tech savvy (by which I mean I work in broadband support and grew up on Neopets), but there are areas creeping into popular culture that I only have surface level awareness of – I mean, when the Criminal Minds crew are gasping over the Silk Road and Tor, I’m not entirely oblivious, but I am aware that there’s plenty more I could and want to know. (Don’t worry, even I realise that when CSI: Cyber’s Patricia Arquette is masterfully changing her message board username to Admin, she’s not actually Hacking The Database).

The Dark Net was a pretty solid launching point into the development of the darker side of the internet. Narrated by Matt Bates and coming in at just over seven hour longs, I finished it within two days and was never bored. From the history of trolling, to how to order drugs online (okay, I don’t think it was necessarily meant to be a how to guide, but it certainly read like one!), through digital extremism and pro-eating disorder websites, The Dark Net was a fairly comprehensive guide to all manner of internet nastiness.

One section contains an interview with a man convicted for downloading indecent images of children. It was hard to listen to, as was the surrounding content on how the internet has facilitated mass distribution of child abuse images and videos.

The end of the book tails off into the realms of sci-fi, discussing the possibility of uploading consciousness (ie. that one episode of Black Mirror. In fact, there’s also mention of an online hit list which perfectly parallels another Black Mirror episode that I now badly want to re-watch).

On the whole, The Dark Net was never going to be exhaustive at its short length, but it was enjoyable and informative, and I’d cheerfully recommend it to anyone interested in its subject matter.

[Read from 21-22 March 2017]

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