Freenet: Resisting Censorship Since 1999
When you hear the words “dark web” or “darknet,” what do you picture? Tor? Or perhaps a hooded hacker coding in a secure location?
Although Tor may be one of the more popular privacy tools in use today, it’s far from the only one.
Freenet, designed in 1999 by Ian Clarke, is a P2P platform for anonymous communication and also a distributed datastore. In other words, portions of its database are stored in an assortment of physical locations and on multiple nodes.
Once someone adds content, it will remain there permanently – that is, as long as it’s still popular. The community helps decide which content should remain and which should be deleted, based on their response to it.
This isn’t to say that any of the material on Freenet won’t be offensive to someone, but it’s better than letting an outside authority decide what can or can’t be shown.
My Data Is Your Data
Every Freenet node donates some of their hard drive space to store parts of encrypted files, which are, in turn, kept in the datastore (i.e. the disk space used by Freenet to store data).
The reason for this is simple: it’s one of the ways that Freenet is kept censorship-resistant, as it would be difficult for an attacker to identify who is responsible for any one piece of content. For a more detailed explanation of the datastore, see Freenet Wiki: Datastore.
Do You Trust Me?
You can create an anonymous identity on Freenet through the Web of Trust (WoT) plugin, which will choose which identities to download messages from. If you or someone in your network flags another person as a spammer (or other unwanted identity), their trust score drops.
If the spammer’s trust score drops sufficiently, others in your trust network will no longer download any messages from that entity.
When first joining the WoT, the plugin will randomly generate a name for your new identity, like “de_crypticalicet” or “nu_grantion” (note: these aren’t real).
While it is possible to refresh the page and get a different identity, this isn’t recommended, as it creates a pattern that can potentially link you to your various identities (and that would defeat the purposes of the anonymity tools).
Socialization – the Anonymous Way
Two of the major social networking aspects of Freenet are the Sone plugin and FMS (Freenet Messaging System).
Sone is a plugin that creates a social network on top of Freenet, which is somewhat modeled after Facebook (although far more anonymous). FMS is the official forum system.
Both of these plugins require separate installations (which may take a little work), but it’s worth it if you really want to become involved with the Freenet community. The Freenet Social Networking Guide offers helpful step-by-step instructions as to how to install and get started with both Sone and FMS.
In spite of being easier to use than some other P2P networks, Freenet still isn’t geared toward noobs, especially when it comes to building the various plugins and such. Nonetheless, with a little patience and practice, it should become second nature. To its credit, it seems simpler to learn than I2P; there are plenty of guides and Q&A’s to get you started.
Give Me Site Beyond Site
Probably the simples aspect of Freenet is merely browsing the different “freesites,” which are built on top of Freenet. They’re more or less equivalent fo Tor’s hidden services (.onion sites). Unlike Tor, however, you can’t browse the clearnet through the same network, although you can use an ordinary browser like Firefox or Chrome to access Freenet.
The freesites are indexed into various link lists, entitled “Nerdageddon,” “Linkageddon,” “Gantros Index,” “Enzo’s Index,” and “YAFI” (Yet Another Freenet Index). For newcomers, I generally suggest Nerdageddon, as it has most of the “offensive” material removed (i.e. adult content). Linkageddon and YAFI, on the other hand, are indexes of every Freenet site, with no content filters. As on Tor, there may even be illegal material on some of these indexes, but if you go in with that expectation, it seems a little less shocking.
Most of the sites indexed in Nerdageddon are various Freenet blogs (known as “flogs”), political and coding-related sites, and quite a bit of controversial humor sites as well. There are others that I have yet to explore, but I’ll leave that part to you.
And the Point Goes to…
Freenet isn’t necessarily a replacement for Tor, but it has a very different interface, and feels more like a close-knit community. Once you get used to navigating it and learn the various plugins, it’ll become second nature.
Yes, like Tor, it does have its fair share of “disturbing” content, but in order to see that, you really have to go looking for it. Overall, its setup makes it an excellent privacy tools, and I highly recommend it. IF you’d like to check it out further, Follow this link
Just don’t tell them I sent you.
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