Most People Want To Shut Down The Dark Web

For many, the criminal activity of the dark web outweighs its benefits to human rights

(Illustration: Tara Jacoby)
Mar 29, 2016 at 5:05 PM ET

The majority of citizens around the world want to shut down one of the most powerful platforms for free speech and human rights activism, the dark web. Granted, that stance probably has a lot to do with the fact that the dark web is also a marketplace for firearms, narcotics and child pornography.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), a Canadian independent think tank, worked with market research firm Ipsos to survey more than 24,000 internet users across 24 countries to gauge their sentiment towards the dark web. Eric Jardine, a CIGI researcher fellow who specializes in cyber security, cyber protests and cyber terrorism, told Vocativ that surveyors clarified that the term “dark web” refers to areas of the internet that are only accessible with anonymous web browsers.

“Since many individuals we surveyed don’t know what the dark web is, we set it up to lay out both sides,” Jardine said. Pollers clarified that the dark web was used both for criminal reasons—like hacking, viewing child porn and selling illegal drugs and firearms—as well as for human rights activism—like whistleblowing, exposing political corruption and organizing protests. The result of the polls, released on Tuesday, shows that in the view of most people, the harm of the dark web outweighs the good.

Across the world, 71 percent of those surveyed think the dark web should be shut down, with 36 percent in strongly agreeing and 35 percent somewhat agreeing with the notion. Jardine believes the overwhelming popularity of censoring the dark web is due to people having a “knee-jerk” reaction to the term due to the nefarious activities the media often links to it.

U.S. citizens come in just above the average, with 72 percent believing in closing off the dark web. People in Mexico, India and Indonesia were the most likely to disapprove of the dark web. Jardine thinks this is because those countries value law and order and are likely most affected by criminal activity that benefits from anonymous online communication and trade.