The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Dark Web Drug Policing

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"The role of AI and ML in fighting dark web-supported drug crimes is core to innovative policing"

As a field, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken center pivot in matters innovation and technology – simulating human behavior by operating without supervision. By definition, Machine Learning (ML) happens to be a subset of AI in that it enables machines to automate functions based on “learning” historical data while eliminating the need for programmers to issue instructions. So far, AI and ML have become instrumental in driving economies and industry. This article focuses on the critical role it plays in helping governments and law enforcement agencies to hunt down darknet-hosted drug dealers.

The War Against Drugs

The identification of darknet-hosted drug dealers must involve the employment of various techniques. Interestingly, the process of picking out targets online is relatively easy compared to physically locating them. Nonetheless, it is prudent for us to acknowledge the shortcomings of AI and ML is actualizing real ideas – the issue of high failure rates and minimal acceptance within law enforcement circles is a long withstanding challenge. Otherwise, before we get carried away, let’s focus on some of the examples that reflect how AI and ML tools can be used to effectively crack down on drug dealing.

Real World

In real life, Image Processing is instrumental in the detection of contraband, specifically drugs and drug-related items. This tool can identify weapons carried by persons, well- hidden animals on their way to illegal smuggling destinations, and including the detection of individuals whose backpacks contain drug packages. With this AI and ML technique, law enforcement agencies can scan massive amounts of luggage to detect hidden drugs. Second, Geographic Information Systems are used to map and digest the IoT sensor information to establish patterns of travel and smuggling routes that define criminal drug networks.

Online: AI in Dark Web monitoring

Undoubtedly, AI has swept computer technology enthusiasts off their feet. But what exactly is the significance of artificial intelligence in dark web monitoring? This question is critical and can be approached by understanding the research milestones made concerning the involvement of AI in controlling the hidden web. A 2010 scientific paper, A Focused Crawler for Dark Web Forums by Abbasi et al., provided a proposition for the creation of a crawling mechanism that would work to collect content from Dark Web forums. The outcomes of the study were very interesting. The researchers were successful in creating a specialized crawler for gathering information from dark web forums. They employed an accessibility technique that registered monumental levels of success that were recorded at over 90%. The crawler utilized a mechanism that was not tied down by language restrictions. This ranged from URL tokens to anchor text. According to the researchers, this aspect was fundamental in ensuring the gathering of content across the multilingual divide. The crawler also used particular strategies that would allow it to sustain incremental crawling. Furthermore, the incremental crawling method was combined with a recall improvement technique that would typically re-spider uncollected content. The paper’s discussion intimated that the study managed to obtain latest information from 109 dark web forums. This success occurred despite the reality of multiple languages spoken in the forum.

The Flipside

Following the above analysis, it would be easy to regard AI as a welcome idea for restoring sanity on the dark web. While this premise might be correct, the application of police-supported AI crawlers on dark web activity may rub many people the wrong way. Notably, this development raises serious privacy concerns. Privacy advocates would easily dub it as a witch hunt for people out to exercise their freedoms of thought and speech. While criminals have primarily misused the dark web, a significant portion of the hidden web has been instrumental in circumventing government-funded media censorship. This is just but one positive attribute borne in the dark web that is often undermined. Allowing the police to advance their surveillance methods on the dark web will heighten issues surrounding political oppression. In the subject of child pornography, such a move may be justified. However, the privacy and security of individuals using the dark web for legitimate reasons will become primarily compromised. It has always been important for people to have complete control over their online privacy, with an emphasis on the prevention of government spying on their online lives - privacy is a human right.

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