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This is a confusing term because it has two meanings.

The older one, popularised by an influential discussion paper The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution, of 2002, saw it as the collection of peer-to-peer systems that permitted the illegal sharing of copyright digital material across the Internet. In a review of J D Lasica’s 2005 book Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation, it was explained thus: “Darknet is the lawless underground economy in which computer users share and trade music, movies, television shows, games, software, and porn. In a sense, it’s the black market of the Internet.”

The second meaning has grown up in the past couple of years and is now the more common. To evade crackdowns on public file-sharing systems, some users have set up private, invitation-only networks. Others have adopted similar methods to circumvent censorship or to avoid legal oversight for other reasons — some private forums are said to be used by hackers and paedophiles.

A darknet is an encrypted, anonymous section of the internet where users meet, chat and swap data.

Daily Record, 1 Sep 2006

Fed up of controls imposed on the internet by everybody from the government to workplaces and the service provider at home, Charles Assisi tries exploring the darknet. A part of the internet where entry is by invitation only.

Times of India, 4 Dec. 2005

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 14 Oct. 2006

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-dar3.htm
Last modified: 14 October 2006.