DeepDotWeb - A shuttered news site
In its heyday, DeepDotWeb was an online media portal focused on tracking dark web beats. The site had both a clearnet URL and a companion .onion domain. It became a popular source of news around darknet marketplaces, Bitcoin, privacy technology, and more. DeepDotWeb also hosted DNM marketplace reviews, blacklists of bad actors in the ecosystem, and interviews with figures and teams of note in the arena. The site reportedly earned millions of dollars through an underground affiliate marketing system. DeepDotWeb marketed dark web services in exchange for commissions earned from ensuing referrals.
The DeepDotWeb was first launched in 2013, meaning it was active for roughly six years. The site's focus on providing dark web stakeholders with updated, reliable information earned the platform a reputation for being an effective harm-reduction resource.
Investigation & Seizure
DeepDotWeb got taken offline in May 2019. Authorities moved against its admins for accepting and then obfuscating proceeds — allegedly 8,000 Bitcoin over time — from darknet affiliate marketing ventures. In other words, they were guilty of profiting from illegal commerce. Two of the outed admins were the Israeli citizens. Tal Prihar and Michael Phan, who got arrested and later tried in the U.S. on charges of conspiring to commit money laundering. Organizations around the world had coordinated for months on seizing DeepDotWeb’s operations. The FBI and Europol were the two agencies that spearheaded the take-down. Law enforcement authorities in Brazil, Germany, France, Israel, and the U.K. also participated in the effort. "We viewed DeepDotWeb as a gateway to the dark web," one FBI special agent explained of the enforcement action.
The most notable aspect of the DeepDotWeb episode is how the site’s takedown marked something of a turning point for global law enforcement coordination against dark web activities. The size and scope of the investigations into the DeepDotWeb were unprecedented at the time and thus spooked many DNM users. The actions showed that authorities were getting better at moving against dark web entities. It's also worth noting that the investigation and resulting take-down of the DeepDotWeb paved the way for, Dread, a Reddit-style darknet discussion forum, to rise into the position that the DeepDotWeb once did as the ecosystem's top information and harm-reduction platform. Whether Dread will last as long as DDW did remains to be seen.