The argument over whether or not sites on the dark web should be allowed to exist is an intriguing one for a number of reasons. On the one hand, some contend that shutting down these websites would be an infringement on people’s rights to free speech and privacy because the dark web gives people a place to exercise those rights. Others contend, on the other hand, that closing down these websites would help to reduce crimes like drug trafficking, money laundering, and the sale of credit card data because dark web links provide a haven for illegal activities like these.

Let’s imagine a debate between two people to illustrate just how thorny this issue can be, ethically and philosophically.

Sven (an editor for a prestigious science journal): Good evening, Ingrid. I understand that we will be discussing the issue of the dark web today. I believe that dark web links are a breeding ground for illegal activities and should be shut down.

Ingrid (a Libertarian political activist): Good evening, Sven. I disagree. The dark web is a platform for individuals to exercise their right to free speech and privacy. Shutting it down would be a violation of those rights.

Sven: I understand your perspective, but the dark web is also used for illegal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and the sale of stolen credit card information. Shutting it down would help to reduce these crimes.

Ingrid: The dark web is not a monolith. Sure, there are illegal activities happening on it but it also provides a safe space for marginalized communities and whistleblowers to share information without fear of persecution.

Sven: But what about the harm caused by the illegal activities on the dark web? Surely, we cannot ignore the harm caused by drugs and human trafficking.

Ingrid: I agree that these are serious issues that need to be addressed. However, shutting down the entire dark web is not the solution. Instead, law enforcement agencies should focus on targeting specific illegal activities and individuals.

Sven: I understand your point, but how do we ensure that law enforcement agencies can effectively target these illegal activities without the ability to monitor and surveil dark web links?

Ingrid: Law enforcement agencies should still be able to do their jobs, but they should be subject to strict oversight to ensure that they do not abuse their power and violate civil liberties.

Sven: But what about the role of tech companies in this issue? Should they be responsible for monitoring and shutting down dark web sites?

Ingrid: Tech companies should not be responsible for monitoring and shutting down dark web sites. This is the job of law enforcement agencies. However, tech companies can and should take steps to ensure that their platforms are not being used for illegal activities.

Sven: I see your point, but I still believe that the dark web should be shut down. It is a breeding ground for illegal activities and the harm caused by these activities far outweighs any potential benefits.

Ingrid: I understand your concern, but I believe that dark web links should not be shut down. It is a valuable platform for free speech and privacy, and shutting it down would violate those rights. Instead, we should focus on targeting specific illegal activities and ensuring that law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions.

Sven: I see your point, but I still believe that the dark web poses a significant threat to public safety and should be shut down. The harm caused by illegal activities on the dark web is too great to ignore.

Ingrid: I understand your concern, but shutting down the dark web would not solve the problem of illegal activities. Instead, we should focus on targeting specific illegal activities and ensuring that law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions. Additionally, we should also look into alternative solutions such as regulation, that would make darknet marketplaces safer and more transparent, rather than banning them outright.

Sven: I understand your perspective, but I still believe that the dark web should be shut down. It is a breeding ground for illegal activities and the harm caused by these activities far outweighs any potential benefits.

Ingrid: I understand your concern but I believe that shutting down the dark web is not the solution. It’s a complicated issue that requires a nuanced approach. We should focus on targeting specific illegal activities, ensuring that law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions and also exploring alternative solutions such as regulation.

Sven: While I understand your points, I still believe that the dark web is a breeding ground for illegal activities and it should be shut down. The harm caused by these activities is too great to ignore. It is a dangerous place where criminals can operate in complete anonymity and it should not be allowed to exist.

Ingrid: I understand your concern, but shutting down the dark web is not a simple solution. It’s a complex issue that requires a nuanced approach. The dark web also serves a purpose for people who want to share information anonymously or want to access blocked or censored content. Shutting down the dark web would be a violation of freedom of speech and privacy.

Sven: But what about the illegal activities happening on the dark web, such as human trafficking and drug trafficking?

Ingrid: I agree that these are serious issues that need to be addressed, but shutting down the entire dark web is not the solution. Instead, law enforcement agencies should focus on targeting specific illegal activities and individuals. We should also look into alternative solutions such as regulation, that would make darknet marketplaces safer and more transparent, rather than banning them outright.

Sven: I understand your point, but I still believe that the dark web is a breeding ground for illegal activities and should be shut down. The harm caused by these activities far outweighs any potential benefits.

Ingrid: I understand your concern, but shutting down the dark web is not the solution. It’s a complex issue that requires a nuanced approach. We should focus on targeting specific illegal activities, ensuring that law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions and also exploring alternative solutions such as regulation.

As the debate continues, it becomes clear that there is no easy solution to the issue of the dark web. Both Sven and Ingrid have valid points and it is important to consider the potential harms and benefits of shutting down the dark web before making a decision. It’s a complex issue that requires a multilayered approach, from law enforcement agencies to tech companies, and even individuals to work together to find a solution that balances protecting citizens while also respecting their rights.


Further reading:

Jardine, Eric. “Online content moderation and the Dark Web: Policy responses to radicalizing hate speech and malicious content on the Darknet.” First Monday (2019).

Ghappour, Ahmed. “Searching places unknown: Law enforcement jurisdiction on the dark web.” Stan. L. Rev. 69 (2017): 1075.