The Dark Web Dilemma: Tor, Anonymity and Online Policing

Posted in: Research at 04/10/2015 23:04

Online anonymity-granting systems such as The Onion Router (Tor) network can be used for both good and ill. The Dark Web is possible only because of online anonymity. Illegal markets, trolls and online child abuse rings proliferate due to the technology of Tor and other similar systems. However, the anonymity provided by such systems gives cover for people in repressive regimes that need the protection of technology in order to surf the Web, access censored content and otherwise exercise their genuine right to free expression.

These opposing trends pose a dilemma. Tor is basically a neutral tool that can be used for either good or ill. Whether the technology is worth it, depends upon the net effect. Unfortunately, the costs and benefits of a system like Tor are not evenly distributed globally. The ills tend to cluster in liberal countries, while the benefits tend to cluster most in repressive regimes. At the same time, 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.

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