Seven out of 10 global citizens surveyed by a leading international think tank want to see the dark web – seen by many as the seedy underbelly of the internet and home to, among other things, child abuse material, terrorism and illegal drugs – shut down.
The dark web is a collection of platforms online, such as Tor, where IP addresses on the servers that run them can be hidden.
As a result, they have become known as the dark web and, thanks to the notoriety of Silk Road and the use of dark web resources by those trying to mask child abuse material and terrorism, it is seen by many as nefarious and dangerous.
This, of course, belies the use of services like Tor by journalists, humanitarian workers, whistleblowers and those rebelling against oppressive regimes.
‘Despite public opinion, shuttering anonymity networks is not a viable long-term solution, as it will probably prove ineffective and will be costly to those people that genuinely benefit from these systems’
– ERIC JARDINE, CIGI
Now, according to a Canadian think tank called the Center for International Governance (CIGI), it turns out that 71pc of global citizens agree that the dark web should be shut down. The survey recorded the views of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries.
But if the realm of the dark web truly embodies the seedy underbelly of the web, then the fact that 29pc of global citizens want to preserve the anonymity the dark web affords means this is going to be a complex issue.
“The anonymity of the technology of the dark web cuts both ways — while people can use the network for villainous purposes, people can also use it for good,” said Eric Jardine, CIGI research fellow and dark web expert.
“Despite public opinion, shuttering anonymity networks is not a viable long-term solution, as it will probably prove ineffective and will be costly to those people that genuinely benefit from these systems.”
People in Indonesia (85pc), India (82pc) and Mexico (80pc) are most likely to believe the dark web should be shut down but citizens in countries like Kenya (61pc), South Korea (61pc) and Sweden (61pc) aren’t as likely to say so.
Seven in ten (72pc) Americans think the dark web should be shut down, which has them tied with Australia (72pc) and above Turkey (71pc).
BRIC (78pc) and Latin American (76pc) citizens are most likely to agree the dark web should be shut down while 69pc in Europe and the Middle East/Africa say the same.
Globally, only 46pc of people trust that their activities on the internet are not censored and only 38pc trust that their activities on the internet are not monitored.
Only six in 10 people said that government assurances that they are not being censored (59pc) or monitored (58pc) would make them trust the internet more.
“The opinions expressed by global citizens about the dark web, a faceless realm functioning purely on anonymity, demonstrate the complexity of this issue for policymakers and governments around the world,” said Fen Hampson, director of CIGI’s Global Security and Politics Programme and co-director of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
“Simply put, anonymity and the privacy of users must be central determinants in guiding the future of creating systems and boundaries to govern the internet.”
Privacy vs national security
As the debate about iPhone encryption as raised in Apple’s spat with the FBI over the iPhone in the San Bernardino case rages on, CIGI also found that most global citizens favour enabling law enforcement to access private online conversations if they have valid national security reasons to do so, or if they are investigating an individual suspected of committing a crime.
The survey also found that a majority of respondents do not want companies to develop technologies that would undermine law enforcement’s ability to access much-needed data.
70pc of global citizens agree that law enforcement agencies should have a right to access the content of their citizens’ online communications for valid national security reasons, including 69pc of Americans and 65pc of Canadians.
85pc of global citizens agree that when someone is suspected of a crime governments should be able to find out who the suspect communicated with online, including 80pc of Americans who agree.
63pc of global citizens agree that companies should not develop technologies that prevent law enforcement from accessing the content of an individual’s online conversations. 60pc of Americans and 57pc of Canadians are most likely to agree with this statement.
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