Is Telegram the Next Dark Web?


A while back, whilst browsing for the latest movies I stumbled upon Telegram channels. For the avid user, this is quite normal, but for the rest of us who take Telegram as a mere messaging app, it comes as a shock to the convenience the app offers in terms of content acquisition. In my search, I got access to anime series that would otherwise be troublesome and hard to get, I got movies that weren’t yet available for my locale, not to mention the latest patches for different software. It was truly a fascinating experience, being the enthusiast I am, it wasn’t long before I unveiled deeper darker parts of the user experience.  Fake ID services and other document counterfeiting, Drug sales, hacking and other cyber-crime services I soon found myself at the heart of an otherwise dark web marketplace.

For those that don’t understand what the dark web is, it is a part of the internet that isn’t indexed by traditional browsers like Google, often requiring special software like Tor for access. Thus, the dark web is characterized by privacy and anonymity, making it the go-to for illicit item sales both legal and illegal and anonymous communication.

One could wonder how Telegram compares to this. How do they keep governments from accessing their data? Don’t advertising companies peer at the activities the way it’s done on other platforms? Well, Telegram boasts its end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages. Telegram’s promise of privacy and security has made it the platform of choice for a variety of illegal operations. Its encrypted messaging system ensures that communications remain confidential, hence making it extremely difficult for law enforcement to intercept or trace. Some of the sales I got access to included

Gadgets and Drug sales where vendors utilized Telegram channels and groups to advertise and sell narcotics, and other black market items. The platform’s anonymity makes it ideal for conducting such business. Transactions are often conducted using crypto-currencies which adds an extra layer of obscurity.

Stolen Financial Data was also on sale in the form of stolen credit card information, IDs and other sensitive details as well as counterfeit copies of official documents like permits, availed as digital copies or delivered at an extra cost. The ease of creating a telegram channel and the lack of stringent/robust verification processes make it an ideal venue for such exchanges.

Hacking and Cybercrime Services. Hackers use Telegram to share and sell exploits, hacking tools and cybercrime services. I have got a few software patches this way and landed upon numerous offers promising to hack into someone’s devices for information, their messaging and social media accounts and so on for any that can afford the pay. The platform allows them to communicate and collaborate without the risk of exposing their identities, further enhancing their operational security.

However, Telegram’s strict security policies make it hard for legitimate users to monetize their content. Usually, monetizing and account works by allowing third-party advertising services to use your data, and the users’ data to display adverts on your pages. The platform’s focus on privacy and encryption means that traditional advertising models, which rely on user data are less effective, hence forcing Telegram to explore alternative revenue streams. This is where The Open Network (TON) Blockchain comes in.

To create sustainable monetization avenues, Telegram has integrated the TON blockchain and its native crypto-currency, Toncoin into its ecosystem.

A blockchain is a decentralized and distributed kind of digital ledger that records transactions across multiple computers in a secure and transparent manner. It works by recording each transaction in a “block”, which is linked to the previous block, thus forming a chain of blocks—which is where the term “blockchain” is derived.  This technology ensures that transactions are secure, temper-resistant and verifiable without the need for a central authority which makes it a founding technology for many crypto-currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

By creating its own blockchain and crypto currency, Telegram provides a way for its users to monetize content while maintaining the platform’s commitment to privacy. In other words, telegram doesn’t bow to any authority figures.

Telegram’s new ad platform uses the TON blockchain to handle payments, providing channel owners with 50% of the ad revenue generated by their content.

Users too, can transfer Tencoin within Telegram, interact with web3 applications and engage in decentralized finance (DeFi) activities thus enhancing the platform’s utility and providing users with new ways to earn and spend digital currency.

While Telegram shares certain characteristics with the dark web—anonymity, encryption and a haven for illicit activities, it offers a significantly more user-friendly experience. For instance;

Accessibility. Usually, accessing the dark web requires a certain level of technical expertise and familiarity with tools like Tor and VPNs. Telegram, however, is available as a regular app on smartphones and computers which makes it way more accessible and convenient.

Telegram also provides a clean, intuitive user interface that is easy to navigate in contrast to the often complex and daunting interfaces of dark web marketplaces.

Legitimate Use. Despite its dark side, Telegram remains a popular platform for legitimate activities like social networking, business communication and community building. The dark web, on the other hand, is predominantly associated with illegal activities.

Telegram is also more secure with its dedicated security compared to the dark web. Users of the dark web are exposed to a higher risk of encountering malware, phishing attacks and other cyber threats.

To conclude, while Telegram continues to be a legitimate socializing app, its potential for the dark side is truly unparalleled. With the introduction of its own crypto-currency and blockchain Telegram is on the verge of becoming a “super app” where anything and everything can be done in one app. From messaging to movie downloads and shopping. Telegram channels that act as stores are on the rise, not just for illegal sales but also for legitimate merchandise like clothes and equipment. Guess we have to wait and see how telegram turns out to be.

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Andronicus E. Muwanguzi
Andronicus Enoch Muwanguzi is a passionate Ugandan writer, novelist, poet and web-developer. He spends his free time reading, writing and jamming to Spotify music.

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