In The Deep Web and the Darknet: A Look Inside the Internet’s Massive Black Box [SSRN], Dakota S. Rudesill (OSU Law), James Caverlee (Texas A&M) and Daniel Sui (OSU) write
The reality is that while the Surface Web manifests an often astonishing level of altruism for promoting the common good, and the Deep Web inevitably does to some (unknown) extent as well, the Deep Web and Darknet quite often reveal the darker, more antisocial side of human behavior. The markets for hacking programs, other cybercrime tools, and stolen data, in particular, have continued to grow with no signs of slowing down. There an urgent need for policymakers and the public to better understand the Deep Web and develop a more comprehensive law enforcement, regulatory, and national security response. This focus needs also to take into account the potential positive uses of the Deep Web.
The authors’ paper is a policy brief that “outlines what the Deep Web and Darknet are, how they are accessed, and why we should care about them. For policymakers, the continuing growth of the Deep Web in general and the accelerated expansion of the Darknet in particular pose new policy challenges.” It was published by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program.
From the Policy Implications section:
In particular, we would like to stress that policymakers should pay attention to the following:
- Socio-cultural forces are involved in the “generation and sustainability” of criminal entities that use the Darknet. For example, some countries do not have functioning or sufficient markets in legal goods, a context in which the Darknet may actually facilitate increased social welfare and economic efficiency. States in such a situation may have little incentive to enforce cybercrime laws, while free-riding on the law enforcement, regulatory, and national security efforts against truly bad actors carried out by other states.
- The Deep Web and the Darknet are attractive to many because of the prosecution, regulation, and national security surveillance efforts of states in the physical world and Surface Web. Illicit activity is being driven below the electronic thermocline of common search engines and usual investigative techniques, and states must be willing to dive beneath it to gather information and take action.
- The transnationality of these networks frustrates eradication, regulatory, and prosecution efforts of any one state, creating cooperation, collective action, and law harmonization problems for state actors attempting to work together to counter illicit use of the Internet.
- Rather than eradication, policymakers must focus systematically on bad actors and bad patterns, while striving to anticipate and favorably shape evolution of the Darknet. At times this effort might, like anti-terrorist efforts globally since 9/11, risk resembling “whack-a-mole” (the takedown of Silk Road represents one pelt). It will only succeed over time if a broader strategy including prevention, detection, and response is developed and followed with broad international participation and support.