As the jacket cover details, Bartlett reports on “trolls, pornographers, drug dealers, hackers, political extremists, Bitcoin programmers and vigilantes–and puts a human face on those who have many reasons to stay anonymous.” Bartlett enters into and exposes the digital underworld of power and freedom that is the Dark Net, where persons are set loose to “explore every desire, to act on every dark impulse, to indulge every neurosis.”
The book left me deeply saddened. Saddened by the lostness of many individuals, profiled by Bartlett, who seek advice and support on pro-self-harm, pro-suicide, pro-anorexia websites. Saddened by the tales of cavalier disinhibition on the Web that, when exposed, has resulted in the destruction of individuals’ lives in the “real world.” Saddened to hear how the pseudo-anonymity of the Dark Net elevates “nobodies” to the status of radicalized “somebodies” who use their newfound influence to foment hatred in the rank and file. The book is, indeed, as one reviewer opined, “a flashlight into a dark, dark cellar.”
I especially appreciated Bartlett’s concluding chapter that leaves the reader to ponder where all of this will eventually lead. Who will win out? The Transhumanists (those who would like to upload their brains to computer servers), the Anarcho-Primitivists (contemporary Luddites), or … ?