Skip to main content

Study uncovers the dark net as "place where paedophiles can act with impunity”

If you’ve ever wondered what the underworld of the “dark net” is really like, new statistics have emerged which paint this shadowy online world in the worst possible light.

According to the latest research, the vast majority of dark net traffic pertains to child pornography sites, with more than 80 per cent of such traffic being to those destinations.

This was uncovered by a study of Tor hidden services websites carried out by Dr Gareth Owen of the University of Portsmouth, Wired reports. The research was performed over a six month period, with the results presented at the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg.

The study found drug sites and contraband markets were also a major part of the underground, but the numbers of such sites were totally outstripped by visits to child abuse websites.

Owen noted that: “Before we did this study, it was certainly my view that the dark net is a good thing. But it’s hampering the rights of children and creating a place where paedophiles can act with impunity.”

There are caveats with the research, though, which the Tor Project pointed out to Wired – namely that a number of factors could have artificially inflated the recorded visits to paedophile sites.

These include efforts by law enforcement to patrol dark web child abuse sites, which could count as visits, and the same is true of hackers trying to take down such sites with DDoS.

It should also be noted that hidden services sites are only a very small amount (2 per cent) of the total traffic which flows across Tor’s anonymous network, too.

Owen himself admitted: “We do not know the cause of the high hit count [to child abuse sites] and cannot say with any certainty that it corresponds with humans”.