For immediate release

Dark Web studies issued by Global Internet commission highlight child abuse problem, online policing solution

Waterloo, CanadaSeptember 30, 2015The problem of child abuse content on the Dark Web and responding to such illegal activity through online policing, are among the main findings in two new research papers issued today by the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG).

The Dark Web, often accessed through the open-source, anonymity and privacy granting Tor system, “is a part of the Internet that most people probably do not know how to access, nor want to explore,” says Eric Jardine, author of The Dark Web Dilemma: Tor, Anonymity and Online Policing. “But it poses a dilemma — a social problem. Tor is basically a neutral tool that can be used for either good or ill.”

In another GCIG paper, The Tor Dark Net, Gareth Owen and Nick Savage say that criminally oriented sites, such as drug marketplaces, are among the most common sites on the Dark Web. However, their six-month research study illustrates that sites hosting child abuse imagery had the most site visits.

“Like fire, a hammer, or a car, the Tor network can both improve life and provide the means to take it away,” says Jardine, in his paper. “And while 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.”

Benefits of the Dark Web include allowing citizens and journalists to circumvent state censorship in repressive regimes, exercising their rights to free expression and access to information.

“Tor has a critical mass of users, averaging two million per day as of June 2015, and is thus frequently cited as one of the key tools against government surveillance. Somewhat paradoxically, the Tor Project — the non-profit organization that manages Tor — receives the majority of its funding from the US government,” according to Owen and Savage’s report.

Jardine’s paper offers a key recommendation on the social and public policy dilemma the Dark Web has created: online policing. “The focus of public debate should move away from demonizing the technology, or looking for quick technological fixes, toward the idea that, like every other aspect of human society, the Dark Net needs to be policed.” according to Jardine. “This recommendation is particularly relevant for liberal democratic countries, where the dark side of anonymity imposes the highest costs and the benefits of Tor are least pronounced.”

Jardine elaborates in his report, explaining that “more movement in the direction of judicious online policing can minimize the socially damaging costs of anonymity-granting technologies, while still allowing the benefits of such systems.” He says, “just as peace and order are maintained in our offline lives through judicious policing, the same principle should apply online.”

The Global Commission on Internet Governance is a two-year initiative launched by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House. Chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the GCIG will produce a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance.

The Tor Dark Net is No. 20 and The Dark Web Dilemma: Tor, Anonymity and Online Policing is No. 21 in the Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series. To access these papers, please visit: The opinions expressed in the reports are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or the Global Commission on Internet Governance. For more information on the GCIG, including its twenty-nine commissioners and thirty-nine research advisers, please visit: Follow the commission on Twitter @OurInternetGCIG.


Eric Jardine joined CIGI as a research fellow in May 2014 in the Global Security & Politics Program. He contributes to CIGI’s work on Internet governance, including the CIGI–Chatham House-sponsored Global Commission on Internet Governance. His current research focuses on cyber security, cyber terrorism, cybercrime and cyber protest. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Gareth Owen is a senior lecturer in the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science and has expertise in distributed computing systems, digital forensics and privacy-enhancing technologies. Before joining the university, he lectured at the universities of Kent and Greenwich in the United Kingdom.

Nick Savage is the head of the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth. He was previously a principal lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Portsmouth, where he taught networking and security. He is a member of Working Group 3 for the European Commission’s Network and Information Security Platform and has previously worked on projects funded by the Office of Communications and the Engineering and Physical Research Council. Nick holds a Ph.D. in telecommunications from the University of Portsmouth.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance. Led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is based in London. Chatham House’s mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all. The institute: engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term. For more information, please visit