Behind Toronto’s towering skyscrapers and multi-million dollar neighbourhoods, a discreet community is growing. Initiated online, this community brings together young, often economically struggling people and older, richer figures. With the cost of living skyrocketing, the ‘sugaring’ lifestyle has made its way into the hustle and bustle of Toronto.
‘Sugaring’ is a term used to describe a transactional relationship between a young person — traditionally a woman — and a wealthy, older patron — traditionally a man. In exchange for material and financial compensation, sugar babies give their time in various forms of relationships — sometimes romantic, sometimes sexual. Frequently, ‘sugar babies’ meet potential ‘sugar daddies’ on dating websites such as SeekingArrangement and Miss Travel. On sites like these, there is usually a set expectation of a long-term arrangement rather than a one-time fling. Despite mainstream heteronormative representations, this arrangement is not limited to just younger women and older men; younger men also have the option of creating a profile seeking out wealthier, older women, and same-sex patronage is also quite common.
This lifestyle has been met with criticism, considering the implementation of Bill C-36 in 2014, which identifies “prostitution as a form of sexual exploitation,” and the unfortunate stigma surrounding sex work broadly. The government’s position on the illegality of elements of sex work, namely solicitation and pimping, has raised concerns with lawmakers and sex-positive activists who are questioning whether ‘sugaring’ falls into the same legal quagmire. The sugaring lifestyle encourages and promotes interpersonal relationships and is not just about a transaction of services. One thing, however, that’s similar between explicitly illegal sex work and sugaring is discretion. Could an alias behind a screen make the sugaring lifestyle more attractive?
Young and educated, but broke
According to a 2018 press release from SeekingArrangement, 224,582 students have signed up on the site. Financial reward is a major incentive for students to join these websites, especially given the hefty debts many students carry. In fact, SeekingArrangement’s latest public relations campaign is explicitly directed at students — many of whom may be broke and in search of wealthy benefactors to pay for tuition and living expenses. Students who sign up with a university email address are automatically upgraded to a premium account, which boasts features such as unlimited messaging and searching, enticing users from the 18–25 demographic to join.
While the whole purpose of the site is to encourage relationships with younger women, the average age of a sugar baby on the site is 26.
The University of Toronto boasts the most registered users on the site in 2018, with a little over 800 connected profiles. Ryerson University follows with 737 users, while the University of Ottawa had the most user growth, with 206 members registering an account in 2017. Though some users cite concerns over personal privacy and discretion, and some may not be fond of the idea of direct messages in their university inbox or explicitly naming their school, others worry about the issue of data security, especially after the data breach of Ashley Madison, a dating site for married people, in 2015.
Emma*, a third-year U of T student, spoke about her short-lived experience on SeekingArrangement, recalling the decisions that led to her ultimately signing up for an account.
Unlike the common goal of pursuing a long-term relationship, she used the site as a quick fix amid personal struggles.
“Last year, I had been financially in strain. I had just gone through a breakup and needed to move out of my mother’s house. I needed finances to pay for this move and change in my life,” she explained. “I had only ever met up with two men, one [whom] I met twice. It took approximately a month or so to meet up with someone who I felt comfortable going with; someone who did not seem scary, overly kinky, and unattractive.”
Emma views discretion as a major factor concerning personal safety and protection from judgment and stigmatization. “Every girl on the site, from my experience, creates a new identity. For myself, the user name did not include any personal information of mine. I gave myself a new name and backstory. I had never gone into depth or talked about myself, to keep privacy and myself safe,” she described.
According to an email from Brieanne Christian, a public relations representative for SeekingArrangement, the site recognizes that privacy is a key concern among users. “For privacy reasons, aliases are welcome to use on the site and profile. Contact information such as last name, phone number, social media usernames, email address, etc. are not allowed for use on the profile,” Christian wrote.
Christian also wrote that standard ‘attractive member’ account profiles must be completed in entirety for approval. This includes one approved public photo, which must show the user’s caricature. Faceless photos are also permitted. Premium members can communicate without a photo, but are required to fill in certain sections including gender, age, ethnicity, body type, and biography.
These mandatory profile sections are to ensure that there are no scams or illegal activities conducted on the site. As part of the site’s purpose, online-only relationships and pay-per-meeting are not allowed to encourage real-life connections and arrangements.
Feeding the sugar
Sugar daddies are no different when it comes to matters of discretion. A blog post on the site titled “Sugar Dating Discretion” covers the significance of discretion in a relationship. It cites key factors including stigma and personal commitments, such as marriage or another serious relationship outside of the arrangement.
The post also covers tips for keeping an arrangement secret, such as keeping a locked photo folder and creating a backstory in case anyone associated with either party finds out, so the parties can “enjoy the best parts of being in a mutually beneficial relationship while leaving the stress behind.”
After much curiosity, I signed myself up for a profile, keeping my identity anonymous.
Upon signing up, I noticed something interesting: one had to pay extra for discretion and a low profile. Student sugar babies, who are given a free premium profile as a result of being in school, are placed at an advantage, as they are able to customize their profile to the fullest extent. Sugar daddies are not given the same option, having to pay out of pocket for a premium account and features such as having zero public photos and leaving profile sections empty. Anonymity comes with the price of privilege and wealth.
A majority of premium accounts featured zero photos, mainly displaying a straightforward profile and username detailing a little bit about themselves and a few expectations regarding potential arrangements. A defining factor in a profile was a sugar daddy’s net worth or salary, which sugar babies can filter according to their expectations. It was a rare occasion to see a profile filled with several uncensored photos of the user, owning up completely to the sugar daddy lifestyle.
Of course, several users indicated that they were either married or in a serious relationship and were only looking for casual arrangements with sugar babies. One user indicated that he was a professor who was unsatisfied with his current relationship. Another indicated that they had high standards for their sugar babies, going as far as including that they only date Caucasian women with blonde hair.
Can students keep up?
Even with the provincial government’s recent tuition cut announcement, living costs continue to rise, and one can only wonder if financial pressures on students will further increase site traffic and registration on SeekingArrangement. The sweeping changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), including the elimination of free tuition and non-needs-based grants, also makes it difficult for students to have a stable financial footing.
When asked about the future of SeekingArrangement in relation to OSAP cuts, Christian wrote that “the budget cut announcement will likely spike interest in signups as Canada ranks fourth for the most expensive country to attend university.”
Sugaring offers significant financial incentives, as well as opportunities for meaningful personal connections, and students may choose this lifestyle for any number of reasons. However, sugaring may not be so sweet when it’s a last resort for paying tuition.
*Name changed at the individual’s request.
In 2011, Tyler*, in his late twenties, met up with a woman at a downtown bar and, after a few drinks, they went back to his apartment. Toronto Police later opened an investigation into Tyler and charged him with sexual assault. He appeared in court for the first time on December 31, 2011. These facts, a matter of public record, were reported in the Toronto Star and The Varsity. Ten months later, the charges were withdrawn, but this development was never reported on, and there is no more readily-available public information on Tyler’s case.
Open and shut, without much closure. But that, really, is only the beginning of this story.
I don’t think there was any failure on the behalf of the media to continue following Tyler’s case. A late follow-up to an otherwise relatively insignificant and anonymous crime story isn’t exactly at the heart of public interest. The Varsity never reported on Tyler in isolation but as part of a larger story on sexual assault on and around campus, and the Toronto Star’s coverage consisted of a terse breaking news piece that would have gone online and immediately been forgotten among dozens of similar articles. Tyler neither is nor was particularly important; no journalist would have had any cause to go searching through court files to prove or disprove any wrongdoing. He was never convicted of sexual assault, or any other crime that I’m aware of, but the lack of information clarifying this is ominous.
And he claims that it ruined his life.
Over the past few months, Tyler, now into his thirties, a concerned ex-fiancée, and his current partner have been in touch with me. They want me to help them erase all evidence of Tyler’s sexual assault charge from the internet, and I don’t know to what extent I’m willing to help them do it. At the very least, I have tried answering some very meaningful questions about The Varsity’s role as a newspaper of record and source of archival information.
Tyler wants us to de-list his name from the web page that holds a digital copy of the newspaper from 2012 in which his charge of sexual assault is referenced. If you search Tyler’s name on Google, this web page comes up around the fourth page of results. De-listing entails removing a web page from a search engine index, or isolating and removing certain search terms on that web page from an index. In this case, Tyler’s name itself is on the web page, and that’s the search term.
While I’m not sure I buy into the fact that this blemish on Tyler’s searchable history is the root of all of his problems, he makes an impassioned case for it. He claims that he’s struggled to find work because search results make it appear that he’s a sexual criminal. He also says that a severe medical condition he has since been diagnosed with was brought on in part from the stress that this ordeal has put on him.
Tyler was successful in having the Toronto Star de-list his name from its website: the article on his charge of sexual assault doesn’t come up in a Google search, though it can be found through the Star’s internal search engine. An editor’s note dated 2015 also clarifies that the charges against him were dropped. However, the story on Tyler doesn’t appear to have ever run in print in the Star, so it is unlikely to face the same dilemma that The Varsity currently finds itself in.
The Varsity also acquiesced to a request from Tyler in 2015. When one of my predecessors removed the reference to Tyler’s case from the original article on thevarsity.ca, it was accompanied by an editor’s note detailing why the change was made. I think this is consistent with our Code of Journalistic Ethics, which stipulates our editorial operations and makes specific note of when and how we’re supposed to remove content from our website — in this case, when it can be shown that the content is no longer accurate.
But our archives are a completely different beast than the living, breathing thevarsity.ca. It appears impossible on our end to de-list just Tyler’s name from the digitally-hosted print archive without also de-listing all other terms from that same issue hosted online. It’s the search engines themselves, and not our digital archives, that find Tyler’s name in those old PDFs and bring them to the fourth page of Google.
De-listing the entire issue would effectively make all the other content in that issue of The Varsity nearly impossible to find via a search engine. While we usually balance the content of a single article against the harm it may pose to a person or the public interest, in this case we’re balancing the content of an entire print issue of a newspaper. As for tampering with the existing archival files, I simply won’t do that — the whole point of an archive, after all, is preservation.
Tyler’s argument with us lies at the crux of a legal question unique to the internet age, and one that he often defers to alongside his plea for compassion: the ‘right to be forgotten.’ This right is, in essence, the ability of individuals to live their lives without being stigmatized as a result of past actions. The relative permanence of the internet and ease with which people’s histories can be called up has made this proposed right more salient in the last two decades.
The right to be forgotten has existed in the European Union since 2012 and has been successfully upheld in court cases across the continent. Google has removed millions of links from its indices in Europe. This right has also been invoked in Argentina, since 2006, though the law is more specific to images than text. In all of these cases however, the responsibility falls on individuals to petition search engines themselves, not the original outlet of publication, to de-list the results in question. My gut tells me that Tyler’s tried this but to no avail, because there’s no basis for search engines to comply with an inconsistent ethical standard unenforceable by Canadian law. They don’t give a shit about Tyler, but we’re supposed to.
The right to be forgotten is gaining some traction in Canada. In September 2018, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien asked the Federal Court to make a decision on the matter. This hasn’t stirred up much fervour so far, though the group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression calls the right to be forgotten “large-scale private censorship,” and it isn’t alone in identifying the tension between a right to be forgotten and freedom of expression.
An email from Tyler’s partner that I received in January includes the following: “We collectively appeal to your goodwill and conscience to make a one time exception to your mandate, and provide us necessary relief to sustain a normal life.” Is clarifying Tyler’s lack of criminal guilt more valuable than the accessibility of The Varsity’s archives, or is this about something bigger?
Even if it’s true that we have a right to be forgotten, to what end, and at what cost to access to information? If an individual has a right to be forgotten, does information likewise have a right to be remembered?
I’m not really sure, and I don’t think you should be either.
We’re not entirely sure what anonymity means to us. In some ways, the idea of being totally unknown is liberating — but in others, it’s fucking scary. Articles and photos in our magazine address ambivalences like this. In fact, a lot of them grapple with the murkiness of being young today. The shared subtext between our three main sections — online, self, connect — is a vague sense of unease. Our features break them up, in sharp rupture.
We live in a political order that attempts to atomize us. To make us smaller, unknown to ourselves and others. We’re driven into and by technology engineered to exploit us. To make us known and knowable to corporations. A twenty-first century experience is a dialectic of anonymity: we’re entirely transparent and absolutely isolated.
To begin to cope, we have to come together. A real collective isn’t a monolith, but a shifting mass. We need to reject systems and strategies that silo us. To reach for one another, to let ourselves be reached. There is power in this kind of anonymity. A power we can seize.
— Kate & Pearl
My name is Sophie*. I mean, it’s not my real name, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
I’m a grad student. I’m also an addict in recovery. These two things can’t comfortably co-exist in a public or professional conversation. But I want to talk about it anyway, so for all intents and purposes you can just call me Sophie.
A lot of this is coming from firsthand experience, speculations, and opinions. Don’t take my word as gospel.
I got clean in 2013, when I was 21 and still an undergrad. When I tell people that story now, they file it under “acts of bravery” or “really knowing and being in control of one’s self.” When I tell people that story, it’s usually by the time we’ve hung out three times — after the first date, after a long and multi-layered discussion that we might be having in the corner at a party. And sure, some of my colleagues in academia know. Just some of them, when it eventually comes up. With almost six years of sobriety under my belt, it is in many ways ‘safer’ to break my anonymity and tell people about the fact that I am in recovery. We inhabit — for better or for worse — a world of neoliberal, meritocratic thought. People like results; they want concrete deliverables.
Even so, I keep that information close to the vest in my professional life. It’s not simply because of the potential repercussions born from misinformed, caricature-ish stereotypes of the delinquent and irresponsible addict. That’s certainly a part of it. There is a culture of using and drinking in North American graduate academia, as a social lubricant, a tool for networking, and a means to blow off steam. “I don’t drink” is what I usually say, and thankfully, since we’re all adults, people just nod and say, “That’s cool,” and we carry on the conversation. I am content to attend department mixers and post-mixer afterparties with a club soda in hand, but there is always this lingering feeling that I am on a different astral plane. I know I’m not networking in the same networks. I may be there and I may be talking about my work, but there is an impenetrability to the borders of those networks. And it is simply because I am not drinking, and they are, and however little or much their mental state is altered, my colleagues and I are having different conversations. My resolve not to drink also sends a subtle message, whether or not it’s intentional: I’m not capable or willing to take this interaction into the social world; I always take myself seriously.
For people who might not know, being social is a huge part of grad school. It’s so huge, and yet for whatever reason — at least in my experience — I never really got the memo beforehand. Don’t get me wrong, I had some understanding that I needed to sharpen my networking skills. Make the odd appearance at a talk or department event. Become a part-time extrovert. But I really didn’t clue into how important it was to be social. Over and above the professional reasons and the network building and all that, being social meant the opposite of being isolated. Isolation is what makes grad students miserable. I did not take classes last semester because I was recovering from a traumatic event, and therefore felt too disconnected and not enough a part of anything to participate in as many social events as I would have liked. The isolation felt like an anvil on my chest. I needed to be social for the sake of my mental and emotional survival. The overwhelming work of grad school is so preoccupying on so many levels that, if you’re not seen, people might — and often do — forget those who are never around.
All of which is to circuitously say that almost all social events that I attend as a grad student — on or off site — involve drinking. Being social is a big and important part of being a grad student.
Are you still with me? Ok, good. Let’s move along.
“But Sophie,” you might ask, “why don’t you just tell your colleagues that you’re in recovery? Surely they would get it.” Well, I could do that. But remember the little excursion I took through the awkward discrepancy in people’s levels of inebriation — which can range from stone-cold sober to being really, very out of it — during conversations that I often find myself in? Paradoxically, breaking my anonymity adds another layer of separation. I’ve grown close enough to some of my colleagues to disclose my recovery, among others. But even though they were always receptive and accepting, they still say weird stuff sometimes. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some conversation snippets to illustrate my point.
“I’m sure one day you’ll be able to drink again.”
In response to a coy suggestion I made to a friend that they don’t need to actually get drunk when they go out: “Oh yeah, I could, but it’s different with you. You’re very controlled.” (something to that effect)
“What were you addicted to?” or variations thereof.
“Your addiction doesn’t define you.”
Apart from the first statement, which I think we can all agree is a very messed-up thing to say to a recovering addict, you might be wondering what could be so bothersome about the others. I do want to stress that I don’t actually feel offended, or necessarily that bothered, but those statements highlight the more subtle ways that otherwise open-minded colleagues still misunderstand or caricaturize addiction.
Let’s start with the second statement and move down the list. “You’re very controlled” implies a couple of things. One, that I’m a control freak who is very mindful of what goes in and out of her body (the first part is true, but I am far from a ‘my body is a temple’ kind of person), and more importantly, that addiction is something I have control over. What’s lost here is the fact that the very reason I don’t drink or get high is because I am literally incapable of controlling myself. My choice not to partake is not born out of health consciousness, a desire to project an image of wellbeing, or to make people feel bad about their choice to indulge. My choice is a non-choice; it’s either stone cold sobriety or active addiction. My sobriety is a result of not being able to participate in something that others get to do. It’s survival, literally.
Let’s look at the next statement: “What were you addicted to?” Admittedly, depending on the person asking, it can be really tempting to tell the asker to fuck off. The question sometimes makes me feel like I’m being treated like a curiosity at the zoo. Once again, it misses the point, although this time it’s something I really can’t blame people for. There are still a lot of misconceptions about addiction, namely that it is almost always substance-specific. It can be that, but in my case and as is the case for my friends in recovery, it’s not like that at all. For us, being an addict preludes substance abuse. Addiction can be born of many circumstances. In my case, it evolved out of unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with depression, trauma, and poor self-worth. It’s also a very intimate question; really not the sort of thing that I feel comfortable talking about while I’m sitting on the floor of a friend’s apartment at a house party.
Onto the last one: “your addiction doesn’t define you.” Now, I completely understand that this one is coming from a good place and a desire to make me feel like I am not being judged. But it’s patently wrong. It’s a big part of my life that, for better or worse, I often need to keep hidden. It defines the friendships I make, the relationships I form, the activities I do (or don’t do). All of my close relationships formed outside of recovery circles start with establishing boundaries around drugs and alcohol (more the former). Don’t bring drugs to my house. Don’t show up to my house or to a one-on-one hangout high or drunk. Don’t ask me if I want any. Check in with me first before recounting a drug-related escapade from your undergraduate days. Saying that my addiction doesn’t define me is also unwittingly dismissive. Besides the fact that it elides something that, if otherwise not there, would make me a totally different person, it also signals an unwillingness or disinterest in trying to understand me.
“Your addiction doesn’t define you” reads as “I don’t care about the fact that you’re an addict; I like the other stuff about you. Your addiction doesn’t define you, because how could it? You’re so great otherwise.” It means you’re choosing not to acknowledge that part of me. The part of me that has caused me and the people I love grief. The part of me that would have derailed my academic career. The part of me that could not deal with the world of pain that I endured and that I also created. The part of me that brought me so much shame and desperation. That was really me. That still is me, because that is also the part of my life that made me stop in my tracks and want to change.
But if we’re not close friends, probable lovers, or fellow recovering addicts, I won’t be telling you any of this. Despite being a grad student in a progressive department with progressive peers, the term ‘addict in recovery’ is still an identity marker. It’s something that might perplex you. It might inspire admiration for my ability to be in control of myself. It might make you feel uneasy as you smoke a joint in front of me, wondering if you’re causing me harm or if I am judging you. It might be a part of myself that you don’t want me to feel defined by, because people don’t want to define themselves by bad stuff. Being an addict is still ‘bad.’ ‘Bad’ just holds different meanings now. ‘Bad’ is still contradictory; it doesn’t reflect the otherwise ‘successful’ person who is standing in front of you. ‘Bad’ is dysfunctional, lacking in tenacity, hopeless. It’s honestly just too much to explain. There is already enough separation between myself and the social world of grad school. In a sea of colleagues, faculty, and people I should probably know but for the life of me cannot remember, and many of whom are holding a drink, I often stand alone with my glass of club soda.
Written by Sophie*
*Not my real name
In the same way that a shower curtain protects you from a killer with a kitchen knife, the internet protects you and your personal data from the prying eyes of surveillance.
Government agencies, tech giants, advertisers, and others want to use your data to further their interests. These interests range from the annoying, like targeting you with personalized ads, to the dangerous, like monitoring your communications and interactions. As data-driven computing continues to grow and reshape how we use digital technology, data is slowly becoming the most valuable commodity in the world.
Throughout its short and extremely active life, the internet has grown from a rudimentary communication space to the foundation of the contemporary world. Due to this ubiquity, it has become nearly impossible to protect or anonymize yourself online. At any moment, you can safely assume that your location, communications, and interactions are being used by companies however they choose.
A desire for online privacy spurred the creation of the first dark web browser, known as Tor. Developed by the US Navy starting in 2001 and spun off in 2006, Tor uses sophisticated encryption and multiple intermediate relays to make user data impossible to trace and collect. In a world where data is power, protecting user identities was a huge leap forward. Finally, those who feared persecution, monitoring, or government surveillance had an outlet to express their ideas and communicate with others.
Duality in the dark web
With the power of anonymity on a worldwide scale, Tor quickly became the host of the world’s largest markets for illegal narcotics, illegal pornography (often including child pornography), firearm sales, hitmen, hacking for hire services, and much worse. This was enabled by the advent of Bitcoin in 2009, the world’s first cryptocurrency — decentralized and anonymous.
Prior to the advent of cryptocurrency, the dark web primarily served as a way to share illegal files without being caught. But following the first wave of Bitcoin-enabled markets, business took off. Some estimate that cybercrime generates 1.5 trillion USD annually in illicit sales. The magnitude of this problem shouldn’t be overlooked; Tor has given refuge to those wanting to abuse children, distribute laced drugs, and extort money or information from innocent people. Anonymity allows this to happen.
On the other hand, anonymity also provides safety. In some capacity, the dark web is like an online escape hatch — journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and oppressed citizens often turn to it to avoid censorship. In the wake of mass human rights violations following the re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2018, Venezuelan Tor usage exploded. Jumping from less than 5,000 users in January to over 40,000 by June 25, it was such a powerful circumvention of government censorship that Maduro’s government blocked access nationwide.
For applications like these, anonymity provides a safeguard against broken systems.
In countries under strict government control, people can be freed from censorship and fear of arrest for online dissent. Anonymous tip websites for news publications, forums for civil discussion, and protection for citizens of oppressive states are all enabled by online privacy.
The dark web also breeds creative technological innovation which may shape the future of mainstream internet use. Despite operating in the shadows, ducking law enforcement and lacking resources, the next generation of cryptographers still manage to stay one step ahead of most governments. Many of their innovations are related to abstract methods of encryption and could have significant applications if adapted into mainstream technology.
The illegal marketplaces on the dark web have ingenious ways of ensuring that anonymity doesn’t get in the way of business. Vendors, which have no inherent reliability, rely on positive feedback from buyers to maintain sales. This review system encourages competition and user-friendly practices. Prices and quality expectations rise and fall with supply and demand; sellers offer coupons and return policies. This leads to a surprisingly consumer-friendly experience. While making a Schedule I narcotic easy to buy is absolutely detrimental to society, these markets, which conduct billions in online sales, demonstrate the capabilities of anonymous purchasing. Competitive, consumer safe, anonymous economies are viable online — and that’s very powerful.
When a user buys a product, the payment is held by the marketplace until the sender can provide proof that the product has been sent, and the buyer can confirm they received the product. Then at least two of the parties involved — buyer, seller, and site administrator — must sign off on the sale using an encrypted digital signature to release the payment. This, of course, requires trust in the marketplace itself from both seller and buyer; other than getting shut down by law enforcement, exit scams by marketplaces stopping orders and vanishing have occurred. Nevertheless, in the face of possible fraud at every turn, illegal markets maintain viability through a series of checks and balances, just like our current systems.
The quest to evade law enforcement and regulation is an arms race. Bitcoin, despite having anonymous user credentials, stores all transactions made on a public ledger, which records who sent and who received the money. Law enforcement are able to identify users by the volume of network communications, ultimately matching payment history with other personal details to make arrests.
But newer methods of strengthening user privacy are continually being developed. One example of this is zk-SNARK (zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument of knowledge), which allows cryptocurrency transactions to be verified without revealing or knowing either the sender or the reciever. These cryptographic breakthroughs, advanced forms of user-side encryption, and more have enabled the growth of untraceable interaction across the world. While these developments currently prop up the highest concentration of illegal trade ever, they are the only existing structures in place that can genuinely protect users’ privacy. The creativity of those seeking to protect Tor’s sanctity is one of the foremost drivers of cryptographic innovation.
There is no doubt that the dark web has failed in its goal of enabling mainstream privacy. Despite Tor’s sheltering of whistleblowers and those seeking to do good, it is also responsible for spawning an unprecedented distribution network of illegal goods and services. Thanks in part to the cryptocurrency revolution over the last decade, the dark web shows no signs of slowing down.
That said, everyday internet users will never switch to Tor. The danger that lies behind every link is too ominous for mainstream adoption. But its scale, innovation, and longevity proves one thing: online privacy is possible.
As the internet reaches further into our lives, there is a growing discomfort with the idea that large corporations and agencies will always have access to us. For people who want to go about their online lives without being spied on, the framework is here. The dark web, despite its ugliness, offers an alternative. Tor will be the backbone of the fight against destructive legislation, corrupt governments, and systemic oppression.
The real test will come at the adaptation of these technologies into the mainstream. Over the last decade, blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, has seen widespread implementation across every corner of the tech industry to decentralize data. The encryption techniques and protection practices of dark web users could be retrofitted to existing technologies to give users more control over what they want to share.
In the end, is anonymity worth it? The internet without legal ramifications has spawned the most sophisticated, deadly, and disgusting markets in the modern world. It also created an environment for Edward Snowden to alert the world of gross mass surveillance from his government. One could not have happened without the other.
Maybe one day, we can reconcile the victories and failures of both faces of the internet to develop a platform that could be anonymous and free, while retaining the data-driven, highly intelligent developments of the surface web. I hope that one day, we realize the serious consequences behind digital interaction and start treating users as humans, not just as ones and zeros.
One afternoon, I went to the Museum on the Seam, which sits between Damascus Gate and Mea Shearim, an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I sat in a basement, watching a video installation run over itself, and cried in the dark.
That’s where SEAM came from. After that afternoon, I spent a lot of time thinking about how things bump up against one another, come apart, stretch, and bind. Really, we’re all bound in a variety of ways. Some bindings publicly edge our lives, while we’re unaware of others. Those fascinate and frighten me the most. With them in mind, I kept asking — how do I understand anything about myself? How do I negotiate my place? Can anything I do be honest?
The magazine contributors also confronted these kinds of questions. This informed some really great pieces, like Stephanie’s work on yellow fever, Adam’s writing on psychedelics, and Hanna’s photos. Reading pieces like theirs and producing this magazine ultimately reminded me of the value of grasping: feeling your own fallibility, but reaching anyway.
“I never knew that I would need to write as the Creative Director, but life is full of surprises, just like this magazine production was. Spearheading the creative director of a magazine is not easy. It requires an immense amount of effort, forethought, and collaboration. However, the struggles we faced made this an even more amazing experience to share this creative feat with my talented team. Our team really enjoyed the spontaneous process of designing the magazine, and we hope the reads feel that enthusiasm.”
– Kate, voicing Pearl while she’s designing away
If you’re reading this I’m surprised! Maybe you’re one of those readers who reads everything on the page so kudos to you! I must say you are holding our most exciting work of the year — The Magazine, much better than our newspapers. We spent exciting hours making collages of course, and we did not sacrifice our health by substituting chips and cookies for our meals *winky face*. Welp, I’ve written enough, and you should start reading our bee-a-u-ti-ful SEAM(less) magazine! Yas! And listen to some Dolce Vita!
I never planned on coming to U of T. Originally, I wanted to go somewhere outside of the GTA. All it took was a tour of the St. George campus and I was hooked. From then on out, I spent my weekdays downtown, my weekends studying at UTM, and every once in a while I’d travel to UTSC.
U of T is a big place. Our systems and structures can often be confusing at best. I’m sure you’ll dabble in a few different academic streams, social groups, and extracurricular activities before you find your home-away-from-home. I recommend trying out as much as you can in your first year — don’t be intimidated by how big this school is.
If there‘s one takeaway from this handbook, it would be to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to you. In my first year, I had no idea how many opportunities there were and how many people were available to help students succeed. This is the precise time to experiment, explore, and figure stuff out. Whether you’re a commuter student venturing to campus each day (page 20), considering intramural innertube water polo (page 18), or registering with Accessibility Services (page 21), I hope this handbook is a helpful tool in your transition. Oh, and finish the first year bucket list (page 22) — you won’t regret it.
Take photos! Drink coffee! Settle in! The next few years will be great.