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The dark web has been around since the early 2000s, sparking fear and intrigue in equal measure. Everyone has at least a vague idea of what the dark web is, but misconceptions about it abound.

This article aims to separate fact from hyperbole. It will tell you what the dark web is, why it might be worth visiting, and why you may want to give it a wide berth regardless.

What Exactly Is the Dark Web?

It's possible to divide the World Wide Web into three layers. On the surface or open web, you have websites popular search engines index and anyone can access. You type their name into Google, which provides a handy link that takes you there.

Then there's the much larger deep web, which the dark web is a part of. The deep web isn't necessarily nefarious – you're on it every time you enter a members-only part of a website or conduct online transactions. Being deep means the sites aren't indexed, and you get to them purposefully.

Finally, the dark web is a tiny subset of the deep web. Conventional search engines don't list websites hosted on it. Moreover, such sites have encryption and are impossible to access unless you're running a specialized browser like TOR.

Installing Tor Browser or accessing the dark web is legal, even though some authoritarian regimes try to block it. However, you should exercise caution since inexperienced users may still be in danger.

Tor Browser

Legitimate Reasons to Use the Dark Web

While the dark web has a sordid reputation, it can be a genuinely helpful and life-altering resource. Since TOR routes users’ connections through multiple proxies, their online activities become very hard to track by ISPs and governments. This empowers individuals to visit forums hosted on the dark web and voice their opinions without fear of being judged or government reprisal.

Most users from democratic countries leverage such forums as platforms for open discussions where they can voice opinions they wouldn’t wish their real identities to be associated with. Such places are also ideal for whistleblowers to come forward and make the world aware of companies’ shady dealings.

People living in repressive regimes can leverage the dark web in several ways. On the one hand, they can tell their story & communicate with journalists who write exposes on various atrocities repressive governments would otherwise cover up.

On the other hand, several notable news agencies have joined ProPublica in operating dark web versions of their sites. This lets disadvantaged dark web users experience interpretations of local and world events that may clash with their state-run media’s biased reporting.

Activists are another group that depends on the dark web for anonymity. It's instrumental in coordinating their efforts, sharing information, and growing their cause.

Law enforcement uses the dark web to fight fire with fire. Bringing down the notorious Silk Road was the most noteworthy example. However, various agencies the world over also infiltrate lesser-known forums to build cases against criminals and disrupt their activities.

Why You Should Avoid the Dark Web

It would be irresponsible not to address the dark web’s many perils.

For example, accessing it puts you at greater risk, even if you're not interested in any illicit activities it's so famous for. Malware abounds on the dark web, both as a commodity hackers sell and as a danger that potentially lurks behind any link. Anonymity breeds disregard for conventions that keep the public part of the web safe, so it’s easier to stumble upon threats that can infect your system if you’re not cautious.

Then there’s the matter of the many unsavory activities that do take place on the dark web. It’s possible to find anything from leaked personal information through pirated content to drugs, illegal pornography, and other explicit content if you know where to look.

As if that weren’t enough, the dark web is rife with scams that claim to offer some of the above or even hitman services yet end up fleecing gullible buyers for their hard-earned cryptocurrency.

Navigating the Dark Web Safely

If you choose to explore the dark web, do so with heightened awareness and vigilance. Never click on file downloads and assume the people you communicate with aren't telling you the whole story.

TOR allows access to the dark web yet doesn’t guarantee anonymity on its own. ISPs and governments don’t know what you use TOR for, but they can see when you access it through your IP address. Not a big deal in a free country with lots of TOR users, but a potentially life-threatening piece of info in some parts of the world.

It's best to activate a trusted VPN first and then use TOR. That way, you route your connection through the VPN's servers, so it looks like an entirely different IP address is accessing the network. Besides, using VPNs is smart even if you don't regularly visit the dark web since the encrypted connection they establish enhances anonymity and protects you from eavesdropping.

The dark web can also be a battleground for privacy. Activists use it to anonymously fight for data protection rights, while some marketplaces sell personal information obtained through data breaches. If you're concerned about your data being sold on the dark web, Incogni data removal services or similar can help scrub your personal information from public databases and broker sites. These services can be a valuable tool in regaining control of your online footprint.


The dark web unquestionably falls under a moral and legal gray area. Yet, getting rid of it entirely would rob parts of humanity of a vital resource and perhaps the only means of unrepressed expression. Don't take the decision to venture into the dark web lightly, and be responsible if you do visit.

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