Much like encryption, Tor and the dark net are frequently demonized. One, because they’re simply poorly understood by the vast majority of the public. And two, because like any tools, they can be used for good, evil, or old-fashioned chaos. That this isn’t the tool’s fault is — for some annoying reason — a very difficult idea for some people’s brain matter to digest.
The latest case in point is a new survey of 24,000 people worldwide by Ipsos, commissioned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). The survey found that 71% would like to see the dark net shut down. More specifically, 36% “strongly” felt this way, while 35% “somewhat” felt this way.
The full survey was conducted across 24 countries (pdf), and found that the percentage of those pushing for this shut down was greater in some countries than others:
“…The survey findings demonstrate that citizens in some countries are much more likely than others to believe the “Dark Net” should be shut down: those in Indonesia (85%) and India (82%) are most inclined to believe it should no longer exist, followed by residents of Mexico (80%), China (79%), Egypt (79%), South Africa (77%), Pakistan (76%), France (76%), Great Britain (76%), Brazil (73%), Canada (73%), Australia (72%), the United States (72%), Turkey (71%), Tunisia (69%), Italy (68%), Germany (67%), and Poland (65%). Among the least likely to believe the dark net should be shut down are Japan (63%), Nigeria (62%), Hong Kong (62%), Kenya (61%), South Korea (61%) and Sweden (61%).”
In other words, a majority of citizens not only think the dark net should be shut down, but they’re also making it very clear they have no idea what the dark net is. Shutting down the dark net would require finding and shutting down some 7,000 secret Tor nodes worldwide. Given how well anti-piracy efforts have gone in trying to shut down BitTorrent websites using IP addresses on the public Internet, just how well do people think this really would be? And that’s just Tor; you’d also need to shut down other dark net access avenues like I2P or Freenet, then magically ban any new technologies from being developed.
In other words, it’s simply not happening. After some scary references to child abuse and assassinations, the press release from the Canadian think tank that funded the survey effectively acknowledges as much:
“The anonymity of the technology of the Dark Net 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.”
So yes, while you certainly can order high-grade Afghan heroin over the dark net, those able to look past their fear for a few moments usually realize it’s also an incredible tool for whistleblowers, political dissidents, and anybody else that may not want an oppressive or just plain old over-eager government sniffing and rifling through their communications. Babies, bathwater, etc.
Apr 4th 2016