Is it Illegal to access the Deep web? It has been a floating question around the web for quite some time now, with no concrete answers.
So that’s exactly what we aim to address throughout this piece. But before we proceed towards dissecting the question of “is it illegal to access the Deep web?” to its core, it’s best we get a better grasp on what exactly the Deep web means! (It’s not what you think!)
What is the Deep Web? (Debunking the Myth!)
The Deep Web, contrary to how the media and the authorities try to project it, isn’t the get-together roundtable for terrorists, or smugglers.
In the simplest possible words,
“The Deep Web, is a network of pages and websites, which isn’t indexed on the clearnet and can’t be accessed with regular browsers. It’s not censored or controlled by the government, and hence anything and everything is available and possible on the Deep web”
That being said, you don’t you get kidnapped, shot in the face, murdered or get into any serious, physical trouble simply by being on the Deep web.
But then again, the stories of people being cheated, getting their accounts emptied and being pranked in a big way aren’t just “stories” either.
Also, another major fact about the Deep web is, even though it’s the “lesser known” part of the web and not a large part of the population accessing the internet ever actually stumbles upon the deep web, it actually comprises of over 90% of the content of the actual vastness of the Internet”!
(Image design copyrights held by deepwebsiteslinks.com).
Most people take the “Deep web” and the “Dark web” to be synonymous, well they aren’t! There’s a thin line between them, and it’s that the Deep web is simply un-indexed content, which contains stuff “less volatile” than the Dark web.
The deep web consists of leaked files, Govt. documents, medical records, financial records, anonymous forums etc, while the dark web being the more “darker” aspect, with stuff, such as weapons sale, drugs marketplace, and even child pornography (some seriously dark stuff that is!)
So in other words, when people generally think of the “Deep web”, they actually are thinking about the “Dark web”, because that’s where all the scary stuff happens, the Deep web is simply a bunch of un-indexed pages, period.
Is it Illegal to Access the Deep Web?
Down to the million dollar question.
The fact that “anything and everything is available and possible on the Deep web” clearly makes it illicit from the law and order perspective because obviously it is used to peddle anything and everything that’s not allowed on the surface web, ranging from hitman hiring to nukes (seriously!)
But Is it Illegal to access the Deep web? Here’s what we mean when we use the term illegal throughout this article:
- Can land you in jail.
- You’ll be prosecuted if caught in the act or if proved so later.
That’s what we generally need to know when we pose the question of something being or not being illegal, isn’t that right?
Now the thing is the very definition of “illegal” according to the Google dictionary is “contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law”.
And Wikipedia states that “Illegal, or unlawful, typically describes something that is explicitly prohibited by law.”
In both the cases, the one phrase common is “Prohibited by law”. So the basic concept of this whole article is, “Is browsing the deep web prohibited by the law?”
No, it isn’t.
Our question states “Is it Illegal to access the Deep web?” “Access” being the key word here. Because simply accessing the Deep web is different then actually using and engaging on the Deep web.
According to a paper by the Chertoff Group (An U.S Security consultation firm), there are no solid, concrete policies which apply to the Dark/deep web as of now.
Even though the U.S does have some laws such as the CFAA (in plain English, it prevents hacking), listed in the 18 U.S.C 1030 (a) (2-5), they aren’t exactly related to the “deep/dark web”.
There also is the Budapest convention of 2001 pledging to harmonize criminal cyber laws (source: WilsonCenter Paper on Dark Net) but these laws again are related to simply “computers and cyber sector” and not to the Deep or dark web in specific.
Another point to be considered is, these are country-specific laws. Meaning, it might be totally legal to use the deep web in a country (although that’s rare, it’s just stated here to make a point), while in another it might get you a long-term jail sentence.
For e.g. in China, the laws are more extreme, while not so much in countries like India. Even in Austria, there is a precedent of a man being arrested simply because his computer and servers were used as TOR relay and a cybercrime was committed in some other country.
So in other words, there are no specific laws but there are laws, it’s more like “applies to nothing but everything” kind of situation. And it primarily depends on which country you reside in.
But then again, you’re just “Accessing/ browsing” and in no country will you be jailed simply for “browsing” the Deep web.
Here browsing means “Visually checking out the web pages on the deep web, without actually engaging on them”.
Another aspect worth consideration is the fact that if you’ve taken the necessary security precautions (like employed a good VPN) there’s a very thin chance of your identity being leaked out there unless someone’s actively looking for it, so in most cases you can’t be tied to your deep web activities in the first place.
And even if you’re tied to your browsing activities, it’s not something you can be convicted on in any court, in short “Accessing the Deep web” isn’t a stated crime in any court of law or constitution across the globe.
So to answer your question if is it illegal to access the Deep web, all I can say is it’s not illegal and is illicit at best.
Illicit here indicates that you can’t be jailed or convicted for being on the deep web, granted. But it’s still something the govt. doesn’t support or approve of, so if ever you’re charged with any other cyber related crime, the fact and proof of you being a Deep web stroller might serve as a serious blowback during your trials.
When Is it Illegal to Access the Deep Web?
Even though browsing the lesser explored parts of the Internet isn’t directly illegal, it’s still thin ice. The line between the illicit and the illegal gets blurred easily, hence you need to know where to get off the deep web bandwagon.
Child Pornography: According to a study by Wired.com, over 80% of the visits to the Deep web involve child pornography (either it’s uploaded, or viewed). And in most countries across the globe, uploading or even viewing child pornography is a direct offence.
So even if you’re simply browsing through the Deep web, make sure you do not find yourself on some site related to the above said materials, and even if you do, we suggest you quit it immediately. This is the only case which can get you convicted for just browsing the Deep web.
Drugs: Drugs are the second-most viewed, bought and sold item on the Deep web. The fact that it’s not censored by the govt. makes it the perfect marketplace for vendors and buyers to get their fix.
As soon as you land on a deep web marketplace selling drugs, you’re no more on the “Deep web” and have instead ventured into the dark web.
Obviously buying or selling drugs is a direct, constitutionally stated offence in nearly all the countries across the globe, so that’s another aspect you shouldn’t get involved with.
Buying and Selling Products: And finally, even if you do not buy or sell drugs, basically anything and everything available on the Dark web marketplaces is illegal. From hacked credit cards to copyrighted ebooks.
Also note that in some countries, knowing of an illegal act being committed and not reporting it is a serious crime, hence for the citizen of those countries the laws would be stricter as even browsing the Deep web would be illegal for those specific people, simply because they’ll have the knowledge of cards, weapons and other pirated material being sold and not reporting it.
It however has no chance of landing you in jail considering how you’ll only be aware of the act being committed but not of the “by whom”; it’s still advised to take extra steps to ensure your safety if you belong to such nations.
So let’s sum up the answer to the question if Is it Illegal to access the Deep web?
So the crux of this whole question –“ Is it Illegal to access the Deep web ?” is that, No, it’s not illegal to browse the Deep web, except for when viewing material related to Child pornography.
Browsing the Deep web isn’t illegal to a point till when you’re simply browsing the Deep web, as soon as you buy or download something, anything which is sold or available on the Deep web, there’s a 99% chance that it’s illegal, and hence it becomes an illegal act.
In other words, anything which is legal in the real world, for e.g. browsing the Internet, is legal on the Deep web as well.
So, the “Deep web” itself isn’t illegal, feel free to take an evening stroll through its dark alleys, but what you do on the Deep web dictates the fact if it is or isn’t legal.
In order to support my concluding arguments that accessing the Deep web isn’t illegal, here are some excerpts I collected during my research from some established law firms across the globe, which again back my talk up.
And here’s an excerpt from LegalVision, Australia:
So after dissecting the question “ Is it illegal to access the Deep web ? ” to its very crux, we conclude that,
“It’s not illegal to access the Deep web, the Deep web is legal, although what’s illegal is buying and selling of goods or any material on the Deep web which also is prohibited in the real, physical world”.