Inventing the dark Web

Criminalization of privacy and the apocalyptic turn in the imaginary of the Web


  • Thais Sarda Nottingham Trent University
  • Simone Natale
  • John Downey



Deep Web, Dark Web, online anonymity, privacy, surveillance, media imaginary


This paper examines how the deep Web, i.e., Web sites that are not indexed and thus are not accessible through Web search engines, was described and represented in British newspapers. Through an extensive content analysis conducted on 833 articles about the deep Web published between 2001 and 2017 by six British newspapers, we demonstrate that these technologies were predominantly associated with crime, crypto markets and immoral content, while positive uses of this technology, such as protecting privacy and freedom of speech, were largely disregarded. The consistent association by the British press between the deep Web and criminal and antisocial behaviors is exemplary of a recent “apocalyptic turn” in the imaginary of the Web, whereby Web-related technologies are perceived and portrayed in more negative ways within the public sphere. We argue that the use of such negative concepts, definitions and associations engender distrust about uses of the deep Web, propagating user stereotypes that reflect what we argue to be an overall criminalization of privacy.




How to Cite

Sarda, T., Natale, S., & Downey, J. (2022). Inventing the dark Web: Criminalization of privacy and the apocalyptic turn in the imaginary of the Web. First Monday, 27(11).