Dangers of the Dark Web: East Texas man accused of searching for young girl to cannibalize
21-year-old Alexander Barter appeared in Federal Court in Beaumont on Halloween. Authorizes said he used the “dark web” to search for a child to defile. His gruesome plan was stopped by undercover agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety. These horrifying allegations had our newsroom asking, what is the dark web and how is it being used?
A startling headline, an East Texas man accused of searching for a young girl to sexually assault, kill and cannibalize.
21-year-old Alexander Barter appeared in Federal Court in Beaumont on Halloween. Authorizes said he used the “dark web” to search for a child to defile.
His gruesome plan was stopped by undercover agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety. These horrifying allegations had our newsroom asking, what is the dark web and how is it being used?
Our 12News Anchor Lauren Hensley spoke with the experts to learn more.
For 3.7 billion people using the computer is a daily activity. The average user accesses the “Open Web.” It accounts for 10% of the Internet; Google, Facebook and more.
The other 90%? The deep or dark web.
The deep web is unreachable through a search engine and often requires users to log in. Some examples include hospital records, legal documents and more. Some companies have their own internal net. The dark web also is also unreachable through a search engine, but it allows users to remain anonymous.
12News visited Lamar University’s school of computer science to learn how it works from the experts.
TOR is the most common software users download to access to the dark web.
“TOR stands for the onion router,” said Dr. Stefan Andrei, Lamar University Computer Science Department chair.
“So, suppose I have this letter that has to be sent from Beaumont to New York,” Dr. Andrei continued. “Imagine I put the letter as the core of this onion. Each onion has a set of layers, so that no one on the route saw your identity. ”
It sounds complicated, but users don’t need a high degree of computer knowledge to log on.
In a 2017 report prepared for Congress it states the dark web has 300,000 users who log on daily. That’s close to the amount of people living in New Orleans.
Not all users have have a sinister intent. The dark web is legal to use and some use it for a purpose.
“For example a journalist wants to do an interview with a person who lives in a county with a dictatorship,” Dr. Andrei said. A whistle blower, a person who exposes crime, could do so through the dark web too.
“Project Safe Childhood,” is a group on a mission to track down the bad guys. They said, let there be no doubt, there’s a lot of illegal activity on the dark web.
“We are seeing the people use the dark web for a number of criminal endeavors. It’s used for drug trafficking and people trafficking.” Marisa Miller, Project Safe Childhood Coordinator SETX said.
A 2014 study by a University of Portsmouth computer science researcher found more than 80% of the dark web internet traffic is generated by visits to websites offering child-abuse material.
Remember Alexander Barter? That’s what authorities said Barter was looking for. Undercover agents responded responded to his request pretending to be a father who was willing to sacrifice his daughter.
Investigators released a portion of the chat between Barter and undercover agents. It reads as follows:
“Nice I am in East Texas. How old is your daughter? Can we kill her?”
“I’m not going to change my mind about this. I really want to do this.”
Investigators remain pretty tight lipped about how they police the dark web.
“Law enforcement is proactively working on the dark web. But I am sure as you can understand, we are not being to forth coming about the work we are doing and how we are doing it,” Miller said.
As investigators do their part to patrol the dark web, parents can take an active role to protect their children from potential predators.
“Parents really need to remain in control and engaged with the apps that are going on to their children’s phone. We could recommend parents really be the final say,” Miller said.
Authorities said people are also using the dark web for the illegal sale of guns. But drug sales trump those sales. One study estimates the dark web is responsible for 1-hundred million dollars worth of drug sales.