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Shadows of Modern Technology

The era that we live in is known by several names: the Information era, the Digital era, the electronic era, and more. Since the 5th generation of computers, technology has evolved exponentially, deepening the way information is used and disseminated. There is one truth that we can all agree on when it comes to technology, which is that: Technology is a good servant but a dangerous master. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how technology played a massive role in keeping the whole world alive. Nevertheless, there are always two sides to a coin. Commonly known issues of tech are isolation, health concerns, and economic and industrial problems. This article will focus on the more threatening and dark sides of technology.

The Dark Web

Firstly, there are a few technical terms that need to be understood. Remember, the internet is not only what we think it is. The internet is made up of several layers termed as: Surface Web, Deep Web, and Dark Web. The deeper you go, the darker it gets. But you can always choose whether to stay in the dark or to light up a torch.

Reading an article on Google, searching for a product on Amazon, and navigating through Search engines to get rid of boredom happens on a layer of the internet called the Surface Web. This is the layer that we use daily, and that we are most familiar with.

Below this is the Deep web layer, which cannot be accessed simply by searching on our go-to Search engines. Sites that require registrations for viewing content, online banking, and restricted social media accounts that need logins are Deep Web.

A portion of the Deep Web is termed as the Dark Web, also known as Darknet, that is intentionally hidden from public accessibility. One can access the Dark Web via specific software. One such popular software is Tor, also known as the Onion Router. The Darknet environment was created to do anything digitally with total anonymity. Hence, both legal and illegal activities take place via this web.

Users of the Darknet communicate through encrypted messages and can buy or sell anything with total anonymity. A popular digital black market named ‘The Silk Road’ was used to buy drugs, guns, and worse, child pornography. Such Darknet websites were shut down long ago, but that does not stop someone else from doing the same activity.

Day by day the technology keeps growing, along with its users. Among these users are children and teenagers who intentionally or unintentionally get caught on this web. Technology addiction is not something new in this era. However, this has increased immensely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Words like “Distance learning, and “Online classrooms” were used in place of “School”. This has exposed children and adolescents to navigate more into the web, illicit groups, and other dangerous networks.

 Once into the darkness, they get to access sites with indecent images, and sites selling drugs. Picture this: an adolescent who cannot get out of the house due to the pandemic, wants to make some quick money, gets access to a site that deals drugs and illegal businesses that cannot be tracked down easily by law enforcement due to the anonymity of the dark web.

The answer is obvious.

In March 2021, UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) stated that a new report on “Darknet Cybercrime threats to Southeast Asia” highlights that drugs are the most widely traded category of illicit products available in Darknet markets, globally, with Cannabis taking the lead.

Operating from the Shadows are extremists, Criminals, scammers, and black hat hackers. Thus, every click, every search, every interaction on the internet is a valuable piece of information to them. Their algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. With the needed information they can easily manipulate anybody and Steer towards their dark intentions.

On the 19th of February, 2024, the BBC reported “A man who helped run a global child abuse website on the dark web has been jailed”. Further, it reports that this site which is no longer active, had about 90,000 members who used the site to share sexual abuse material of babies and toddlers.

Another threat to civilians is identity theft. Personal details, bank information, health card numbers, SIN /Social insurance numbers, records from Children’s Hospital, and employee details are only a few in the list of identity theft. This information and records can be used for many malicious purposes ranging from ransom demands to leakage of stolen data to Children being put up for sale. Imagine this: A teenager being demanded to do unlawful activities, and on refusal, being threatened with leakage of personal photos or deepest secrets. This can even happen on the surface web, too

You may think the dark net threats don’t affect schools. Wrong! Schools collect information, for example, by filling out applications. These are stored manually or digitally. Hence, how can one be so sure that these details don’t get hacked and children are set up for identity theft when all their details are computerized?

How do newbies find their way into the dark web if they are so determined to navigate? Well, there’s a solution. The Hidden Wiki is a roadmap to find just about anything on the dark web. To make things worse, one can also find guides on how to commit criminal acts.

However, there is still light in this darkness. A common misconception among the general public is that the dark web is a breeding ground only for illegal activities. Actually, the Dark Web was created for military purposes like maneuvering without being traced, communicating, and spreading propaganda. Further, this is an open door to people who live in countries under censorship. Journalists who want to do their job while hiding their identity, use this golden opportunity to communicate, expose injustices, and reveal private documents.

Finally, in my point of view, nothing on the internet is ever truly safe. Maybe you and I are not aware of everything that’s happening with technology. But there are tech-savvies, hackers, and really smart people out there who know their way in and out of a computer. They are able to literally toy with IP addresses.

If people are Smart enough to make the internet, remember, they are smart enough to break it too. The Dark web is not all bad, but the possibility of getting lost is much higher than on the Surface web.

Navigating the internet safely requires a balance of leveraging its benefits while being mindful of its risks. History tells about people being sentenced to life in prison for trafficking, hacking, and other illicit activities. One can intentionally or absent-mindedly get caught in these.

A final reminder: If we can make it, we can also break it.

 Porn addiction

When you eat junk food or Spend time with loved ones, your body releases something that we call “dopamine, which makes you feel elated and pleasure. We can go on naming the things or activities that put us in a high dopamine state. It can vary from reading to inhalants to gambling. Naturally, when we find something that keeps us in high spirits, we tend to practice it regularly. This leads to “addiction”.

Addiction is a habitual/chronic condition that can affect many aspects of our lives, including physical & mental health, career, mood, and relationships. Now, there are healthy addictions such as exercising, reading, and meditating. However, there are plenty of negative addictions too that send you into a euphoric state. One example is Sexual intercourse. Now that we have a very smart device in our hands, sex, top has become easily accessible and convenient like any other. Yes, I’m referring to “Porn’ here.

What is Pornography?

The explicit visual depiction of adult content or sexual subject matters that are run by companies for money. Yes, like any other industry, the porn industry too ultimately comes down to money.

These visuals are available to watch on the internet. There are paid sites as well as free sites, but ultimately even the free sites try to make money in some way. For example, when you visit a free site to watch porn, you may be directed to another site that requires payment, or you will be filled with tons of advertisements related to erotic content.

There is another threat that comes from these advertisements.

You may be inviting spam and malicious software into your own device when you click on these ads or any other links that you see on these free porn sites. Hackers can literally be anywhere, waiting for that one click you make.

When considering pornography, PornHub, one of the world’s most popular porn websites, is inevitable. It is recorded that millions of users visit this place. This site includes videos of sexual assault, underage, and adult content. Sadly, this is one of the most visited websites in the world, having visitors from any age category. Anybody from anywhere can upload videos to these sites. Picture this: Somebody accesses a very private video of yours and uploads it on this site.

Back in 2010, BBC focused on porn in Sri Lanka. It stated, “Some of the content is believed to include images of naked women that have been put on the net without their knowledge – usually by their boyfriends.”

Such horrible cases have been recorded of people being victimized because of publishing without their consent. And remember, it is not that hard to access your device’s camera anonymously. All it requires is

For you to click on the wrong link and boom!

Pornography is similar to a drug. The more time one spends watching porn, the more dopamine gets released, and you find yourself addicted. The results?

When addicted, we need more and more of it over time to feel the same euphoria. In the long run, one may lose complete control of oneself, be more aggressive, and have trouble sleeping, and many other dangerous consequences.

In 2015, BBC reported the challenging journey of a 23-year-old recovering porn addict. Daniel Simmons Says, “You watch things you really wouldn’t ever watch. Everything is available at your fingertips. “

Read his story of getting addicted to pornography, the sufferings he went through, and how recovered from it here.

Does the porn addiction affect children and teenagers too?

The answer is a big yes. In this digital era, technology has evaded every aspect of our lives. Back in the day, people had to look up a dictionary to know the meaning of Sex-related words. At present, too, this happens. But the only difference is, the younger generation’s dictionary is the internet. They get to know the meanings of those words via thousands and thousands of porn videos that are available online.

It may seem unfathomable, but actually, these visuals are shot in studios where at least two naked people engage in sex, surrounded by cameras. These not-so-good-to-watch videos contain aggression, Sexual assaults, inappropriate use of words, gagging, Strangling, double penetration, choking, and ATM (Ass To Mouth). Finally, these are released for the whole world to watch. In my point of view, this is a major unpleasantly humiliating way to make money. Children as young as 6-year-olds watch these. Teenagers watch these.  They get addicted. They go into a high dopamine state. They are scared and unaware of what’s happening to them because they find it hard to quit. Imagine what happens to their minds, education, health, and future.

In 2023, BBC reported,” A quarter of 16 to 21-year-olds first saw pornography on the internet while still at primary school”. To make things worse, some may want to experience what they see on screen in real life too. The BBC further, “One 12-year-old told her boyfriend had strangled her during their first kiss. He had Seen it in pornography and thought it normal”.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned two topics can be seen as major hideous sides of technology. As technology advances, the chances of engaging in online exploitations increase.

1.      Education and Awareness

As a Sri Lankan I am pretty sure my fellow South Asians are familiar with this dialogue, “Read the whole lesson by yourselves, if you have any doubts, then come and ask tomorrow.”

Yes, I personally heard this at school during science class. The teacher was referring to the ‘Reproduction ‘lesson. And guess what?

The lesson was never taught to us.

Education plays a major role here. Every Student must be taught about their own body at school. Children go through many changes when they enter puberty, and it is vital to equip them with accurate information for them to tackle these changes.

In South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and India, which have different cultures, sex is considered something that should be kept hidden. Some young girls are not completely aware of menstruation, pregnancy, and abortion. These significant topics are not even talked about at home. Compared to Western countries, in many South Asian countries’ topics related to sex are almost considered taboo.

Some privileged schools Consider sex education but still, it is limited to the book. SRH/Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV, Sexual awareness, CSE/Comprehensive Sexuality Education, and Childbirth are necessary for everybody to know and understand. Some people don’t even know that sex education and sexuality education are two different aspects.

2.      Guidance at home

Before entering school Children grow with their Parents, family members, or guardians. So, the initial step should be taken at home. Communication is key. Parents or guardians should openly talk to their children and provide them with the required information about their own bodies. Also, regarding technology, the children must be monitored regularly of the sites they visit, and what they watch on screen, and help them to recognize who to interact with.

One of the best protections to provide at home is to build your child’s critical thinking power. Help them to make smarter choices. Inform and educate them about the internet and its darker sides.

3.      Government initiatives

Of course, not everybody knows how to fiddle with technology. This is where the Government has to take the lead. If necessary, education and awareness aren’t provided by homes and schools, then they should be provided by the Government.

Al Jazeera reported in 2018 that “Nepal bans porn sites to curb sexual violence”, in response to social unrest due to the brutal rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta in July. “Easy access to porn and vulgar content through the Internet has affected our social values and social harmony and it has encouraged sexual violence”, said the Government in a statement.

Regional workshops, awareness programs, providing basic technical skills, building critical thinking, introducing new health policies, considering both privileged and underprivileged schools, conducting surveys on health, voicing out, and introducing new educational curriculum on health are a few productive measures that could be taken to uplift the wellbeing and standards of the society.

4.      Internet Security

Furthermore, strict surveillance should be conducted by cybersecurity officials, Human rights organizations, forensic professionals, internet investigators, and other experts to track down illegal activities on the web and to safeguard future generations.

5.      Individual contribution

Imagine a world where technology empowers, uplifts, safeguards our privacy, and respects our rights. The allure of likes, notifications, and virtual rewards gulp us in a loop of dopamine-driven life. Technology embodies duality; therefore, we must arm ourselves to reap the benefits and combat the Shadows. We created technology to make life easy. It is the duty of every one of us to protect and give proper guidance to our brothers and sisters. By advocating for an ethical digital era, we can pave our way for a better future where technology will be a great servant, rather than a dangerous master.

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