It’s "the dark web." It is the cyber world of drug peddlers, money launderers, and jihadists propagating messages of deceit, overthrow, hate and extremism. Or is it?
According to data gathered by Thomas Rid and Daniel Moore of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, that covert level of the Internet that can only be accessed by specific software isn’t used by extremist organizations at all. "It was surprising that there was so little militant, extremist presence, only a handful of site," Rid said in an interview with Quartz.
The two researchers determined that radical elements aren’t scouring the back pages of Tor because they hacked the dark web. They created a system to crawl through Tor sites and then went through to categorize what they found.
It turns out the majority of "dark web" content can be classified as non-illicit with absolutely no calls for criminal or radical activity. Approximately 10% of the content on the dark web applies to illicit drug sales and 8% applies to money laundering, but only about 3% of the dark web content applies to extremism, an amount equivalent to what the researchers deemed "illegitimate pornography."
The researchers speculate that jihadists aren’t utilizing dark web sites despite their desire to avoid detection by intelligence organizations because of ease of use. "Hidden services are sometimes slow, and not as stable as you might hope."
Moreover, the researchers observed that the dark web does not serve extremists’ propaganda imperative. It appears the audience of the dark web includes only run-of-the-mill Bitcoiners and traditional criminals. "For both propaganda and communications, it’s less useful than some alternatives."
In total, the researchers found that more than 60% of the active dark web sites purvey illicit services, and those services do not generally include anti-American terrorism.