Humans are social creatures. So it should come as no surprise that there are almost as many social networks on Tor as there are on the clearnet.
Of course, it depends on what you consider a “social network,” but there are both Facebook-like networks (where you add friends, join groups, etc.), as well as numerous forums (like The HUB, or any of the marketplace forums).
Don’t Judge A Blackbook by its Cover
Credit: El Cafe Paranormal
Blackbook was the first social network I joined when I started to use Tor. Does it look familiar at all? Yeah, it was, more or less, the Facebook of Tor, and used to be located at http://blkbook3fxhcsn3u.onion.
As with Facebook, you would join, create a profile, upload pictures, describe a little bit about yourself, and try to make friends. Here’s the catch: Blackbook was completely uncensored. Such things as nudity, white supremacist messages, self-harm photos, and the like were not off-limits in any way. I expected all this, so I wasn’t very shocked.
Speaking of which, you know how everyone uses their real names on Facebook? Blackbook was the exact opposite. Just about everyone, including me, used pseudonyms (in fact, mine was computer-generated). I also used a fake location, age, and just about everything else.
As you might expect, Blackbook had quite a few “groups” (much like those on Facebook) related to things you might find on Tor: drugs, hacking, carding, cryptography, etc. However, I learned some lessons the hard way; I went into this with my usual sardonic humor, and it came back to bite me in the ass (just a little).
Like Facebook, people would post statuses describing how they were feeling that day, etc. One time I posted a status along the lines of, “Hey everybody! I’m an escaped serial killer with 20 victims! Can I seek shelter here?” The crazy thing was, some people took it seriously. Later, someone sent me a message and said, “Dude, never joke around like that on the dark web. People tend to take stuff at face value.”
As with many of the darknet markets, Blackbook eventually shut down. I wasn’t that disappointed, but I noticed that a number of its former members migrated to other social networks. If you click on its former link, you’re greeted with this message:
In case that’s hard to read, it says “Welcome to the old home of Blackbook. We are working ons [sic] a new more secure website. Check out the 2017 Hidden Wiki draft. [address removed]. Thank you and we hope to be back soon.”
I’m curious as to what the new site will be like, if it goes up. That remains to be seen.
Galaxy and Galaxy2
Those of you who’ve used Tor for several years may remember the original Galaxy social network, an Elgg-based site created in 2013. It was one of the more popular social networks in its time.
That site, too, has since shut down, but a user named Lameth (a friend of the Galaxy creator) designed a successor called Galaxy2 (that has a similar format). I’ve actually become a member of the latter, though I haven’t been active in awhile.
As on Blackbook, you create a username, profile, add pics, describe yourself…all the usual stuff you would do on a social network. Also, like Blackbook, members generally use pseudonyms, and while some may use real photos of themselves, they’re in the minority. More often, the profile photos represent aspects of the user’s personality. For example, if someone’s a hacker, they might use a photo that represents coding.
Galaxy2, like its predecessor, has a feature called The Wire, in which you might hear things like, “All in the game, yo…all in the game.” Wait…wrong Wire. Ahem…actually, The Wire on Galaxy2 is a microblogging platform, similar to Twitter or Tumblr. As on those two, people generally write short snippets, or share photos and videos through it.
I do recall that one of the people I “met” on Galaxy2 was Harry71, of “Harry71’s Onion Spider” fame – this isn’t to say that we got to know one another on a personal level. I also came across several others who had popular sites in Onionland.
The main difference between the Galaxy sites and Blackbook, as I see it, is that it seems to be maintained quite well, and it has a very loyal and dedicated community that comes with time. Also, as stated in the rules above, “public commercial trade” is not allowed, which helps Galaxy2 avoid being eyed by law enforcement.
While some members may do so in private messages, commercial goods and services aren’t sold out in the open.
Overall, my experience on Galaxy2 has been positive, though I’ve more or less stayed under the radar for quite some time.
The Book of Tor
Beyond the two above, there have been several social networks using the name “TorBook,” which, like Blackbook, have intended to be the Facebook of Tor. Also, like Blackbook, TorBook (and its successors) have a similar layout and feel to Facebook, with a news feed, photo sharing, friend requests, etc.
The most recent version of TorBook, TorBook3, is up and running at j2k5m6rtorbook3w.onion. However, I have limited experience with this one, and based on the fact that the first two TorBooks have shut down, it’s possible that this one will as well.
Pros vs. Cons…
While the idea of using social media on Tor with a fake identity might be fun, it carries its fair share of risks.
The other possible risk is that these social networks (like some of the financial services) can be scams, in and of themselves. How, you ask?
Let’s take Blackbook as an example. Like many of the markets such as AlphaBay and Dream Market, Blackbook advertised services such as carding and drug sales. Regrettably, there was no reliable way to know what was a scam and what wasn’t, and my tendency was to just assume that any sort of paid service was a scam (which was why I didn’t buy anything on these sites).
While I may not have been scammed, I think it’s fair to assume that at least a few others did at some point.
That being said, risky or not, choosing to use these social networks is up to you. If you’re willing to take the risk, then go ahead.
Just keep in mind: with regard to the dark web, if it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is.