Shutting Down the Dark Web Is a Plainly Absurd Idea From Start to Finish

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

"The Dark Web." Sounds scary, right? You've probably heard of it, maybe in connection to online drug markets or rumors of terrorist plotting.

A sweeping survey of over 24,000 people worldwide by a Canadian think tank shows that 71% of internet users believe the Dark Web "should be shut down."

We imagine that the people who want the Dark Web shut down imagine it like some singular, secret and seedy marketplace full of terrorists and hoodlums that needs a good ol' fashioned FBI raid. Because if they honestly think the Dark Web can just be "shut down," they have no idea how it really works.

Virtually impossible: The Dark Net, or Deep Web or a dozen other names, isn't a single set of sites so much as a network of sites that you need special protocols or software in order to find.

Shutting down the network would mean shutting down every site and relay. In the case of the private web browser Tor, this means simultaneously shutting down over 7,000 secret nodes worldwide. The combined governments of various countries have enough trouble keeping the Pirate Bay from operating right on the open web, never mind trying to shut down an entire network of sites with encrypted communications and hidden IP addresses hosted worldwide.

Source: Getty Images

There isn't even a single Deep Web. Most people who refer to the Deep Web are referring to the Tor Network, a network with a special browser that allows you to set up and view websites anonymously. There are other networks as well, like Freenet or I2P.

But maybe the biggest barrier to shutting down the Dark Web is that not everything happening there is illegal, which means there are no real grounds for shutting it down. The government has successfully shuttered illegal services, but many people are using the Deep Web for honest means, like setting up support networks for survivors of abuse, or just running a literary magazine.

So for the pearl-clutchers afraid of the Dark Web: Embrace it. It's not all bad, and either way, it's here to stay.

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Jack Smith IV

Jack Smith IV is a senior writer covering technology and inequality. Send tips, comments and feedback to jack@mic.com.

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