Dark Web Facts vs. Myths: Debunking 9 Common Dark Web Myths

Raji Oluwaniyi  - Tech Expert
Last updated: May 15, 2024
Read time: 12 minutes

We compare the known dark web facts vs. myths in this article, exploring popular misconceptions and truths about this world.


People who have never been familiar with the dark web usually think that it is a platform for illegal activities. There are many negative misconceptions about the dark web. While some are true, others are either exaggerated or purely unfounded. Here are some things you should remember about the dark web:

  1. Visiting the dark web is not always illegal.
  2. Many people use it for legitimate reasons.
  3. The dark is not exclusively accessible to criminals and tech-savvy people.
  4. The dark web is not the deep web.
  5. It is still possible to be tracked on the dark web.
  6. There are many other ways to stay anonymous online besides using the dark web.
  7. Online crime is not exclusive to the dark web.
  8. Cryptocurrencies are not specifically useful on the dark web for criminal activities.
  9. Banned books are not solely found on the dark web.
  10. It is not as large as people claim it is.

This guide separates facts from fiction about this mystical part of the internet. You’ll also learn how to stay safe if you have a legitimate reason to use the dark web.

When people hear “dark web,” what readily comes to mind is the digital criminal underworld where activities like drug dealing, the sale of weapons, and theft of credit card information happen. The reality that the US Navy created the dark web for anonymous communication already makes it an ideal place to do shady things. Nonetheless, not everything that happens on the dark web is darkWe know you’ve probably heard many disturbing stories, so here we have highlighted this mystery topic.


Read this comprehensive guide to the end as we separate fact from fiction to give you a wholesome view of what the dark web is and is not.

Dark web facts vs. myths: Quick Comparison


The dark web is the mystery part of the internet space that has a lot of false narratives going on about it. To set the record straight, we have outlined popular myths about the dark web and their corresponding truths side-by-side.

Using the dark web is illegal.Visiting the dark web is not illegal in itself. It is only illegal if you do illegal things or pay for illegal goods and services.
Only techies and criminals use the dark web.Many other people use the dark web for legitimate reasons.
Dark web is massive.The dark web contains far fewer websites than the surface web.
The dark web is the deep web.Deep web is a part of the internet that can’t be reached with regular search engines. The dark web is only a subset of the deep web.
Using the dark web is the only way to stay anonymous online.There are several other ways to hide your online identity.
Every online crime happens on the dark web.Many crimes actually happen on the surface web.
Cryptocurrencies are only used for crime on the dark web.Although they are used for anonymity, cryptocurrencies also have many other uses on the dark web.
The dark web is the only place to get banned books.You can also find banned books on the surface web.
It is impossible to be tracked on the dark web using Tor.Tor is a great way to stay anonymous online, but it also has vulnerabilities and is traceable.

Dark web facts vs. myths: Our detailed analysis

dark web facts vs myths

Accessing the dark web isn’t as difficult as it seems. You’re good to go if you have a secure browser like Tor, a trusted VPN like NordVPN, and a reliable antivirus for safety reasons. That said, here is a detailed analysis of the facts vs. myths about the dark web.

1. Myth: Using the dark web is illegal

Accessing the dark web in itself is not illegal. You can use the dark web in regions like the US, the UK, and other parts of Europe. However, in countries like Iran, China, and Russia, where the government has imposed censorship restrictions, using the dark web is considered illegal.

Fact: People engage in unlawful activities on the dark web.

Like any other platform with bad and malicious actors, criminal activities happen on the dark web. For example, the FBI closed down the popular dark web marketplace “Silk Road” in 2013. When active, the market sold narcotics, forged social security cards, passports, and other sensitive documentation that aided identity theft.

Silk Road’s activities only accepted bitcoins and strictly happened through the dark web. Between February 2011 and July 2013, an estimated 1.2 million transactions occurred with about 147,000 buyers, generating about $1.2 billion.

Likewise, AlphaBay, the largest illegal dark web market, was taken down in July 2017. It operated the dark web using Tor and sold malware, hacking tools, fake goods, and toxic chemicals. When its operation was busted, there were over 40,000 vendors and 200,000 users.

It’s difficult to determine the exact revenue that AlphaBay generated, but it had a cumulative of over 350,000 listings of illegal items for sale. To understand the extent of the activities in this marketplace, SilkRoad only had about 14,000 listings when it was taken down.

2. Myth: Only techies and criminals use the dark web

The claims that the dark web is a haven for criminal activity are actually true. In fact, reports revealed that about 45% of onion sites are linked to illegal activities. Nonetheless, if you follow these basic steps and precautions, the dark web is largely open to practically anyone.

  1. Install a reliable VPN like NordVPN for extra security and anonymity.
  2. Download the Tor browser.
  3. Use a dark web engine like DuckDuckGo or DarkSearch to access sites or links on the dark web.

Fact: Many people use the dark web for legitimate reasons.

Despite the sad reality of being used largely for criminal activities, the dark web has a lot of legitimate uses.

For example, people in countries that censor internet use can send information and communicate using the dark web. Journalists can also protect the identity of their sources by communicating with them using the dark web. Companies like Facebook and the BBC leverage the dark web to allow people in repressive countries to view their content.

3. Myth: The dark web is massive

An iceberg analogy is used to describe how large the dark web is. According to the claims, the World Wide Web is like the tip of an iceberg, with a large portion of its content still below the surface. However, this allusion doesn’t do justice to the size of the dark web, so below, we elaborate on it a bit before comparing the other dark web facts vs. myths.

In reality, roughly 2 million people use Tor daily, and 3% of the traffic comes from dark sites. This is a small amount compared to billions of people who access the surface web daily.

Some other people say that the surface web is like the solar system, while the dark web is similar to the rest of the universe. But, as we have clearly explained, this is also a false parallel to describe the size of the dark web.

Fact: The dark web isn’t so large, but it isn’t easy to navigate.

Unlike regular sites, dark site links do not have the names of websites. They are usually a combination of random characters and are difficult to access. You’ll need dark web browsers like Tor because they cannot be reached using your regular browsers.

For example, this is a dark web link:

  • http://jaz45aabn5vkemy4jkg4mi4syheisqn2wn2n4fsuitpccdackjwxplad.onion/

It links to a dark web site called “OnionLinks.” On this site, you’ll find different working dark web links that lead to various categories like commercial services, privacy services, and news sites. Whenever you’re on the dark web, ensure you do not carelessly click on random links to avoid visiting illegal pages or sites.

4. Myth: The dark web is the same as the deep web

The deep web is a part of the internet that search engines can’t reach because it is not indexed. This section is estimated to be about 500 times bigger than the surface web; as such, the iceberg analogy is better suited to explaining the deep web.

Information like password-protected personal accounts, proprietary corporate data, internet enterprise networks, and access-controlled databases are what you’ll find in it.

Fact: The dark web is a small part (5%) of the deep web.

The dark web is actually a part of the deep web, so it also cannot be reached using regular search engines. However, it is better described as an anonymous side of the internet layered over the regular internet. Also, unlike the deep web, you don’t need any authentication to visit the dark web. In practice, the way to access a dark web page is to input the link into a dark web browser like Tor.

5. Myth: The dark web is the only way to stay anonymous online

Many people believe the dark web is the only way to hide or stay anonymous online. But this claim is far from the truth. Apart from dark web browsers like Tor, many other services can be used to provide anonymity on the internet. Networks like Freenet, I2P, and OpenBazaar are examples of such.

The Tor users value it because of the Onion Router technology behind its design. Tor protects your personal information by covering your internet traffic under multiple layers of encrypted data while routing your network through numerous random servers worldwide. As such, it is difficult for bad actors and other third parties to figure out who you are or obtain sensitive information about you through your online activity.

Fact: You can conceal your identity online in different ways.

Outside of the dark web, you can protect your privacy and stay anonymous in the following ways:

  • Use the Tor browser: The purpose of the Tor browser is to conceal all kinds of internet activity. Therefore, it can be used to reach the surface web. However, exercise caution to avoid doing anything that can compromise your security. For example, don’t give up personal information to outside parties. Additionally, to protect your privacy, ensure every website you visit is secure.
  • Use a proxy server: To hide your IP address and safeguard your online identity, a proxy server reroutes your network data.
  • Use a VPN: A VPN connection gives you an IP address different from your location, safeguarding your online privacy. Among the best dark web VPNs for hiding your identity online is NordVPN, thanks to its vast servers, AES 256-bit encryption, kill switch, and other excellent security features.

6. Myth: All online crimes come from the dark web.

Indeed, all kinds of crime, including selling pornographic materials, drugs, and other illicit things, happen on the dark web. In fact, there was an incident where a sex offender was convicted for engaging in child pornography on the dark web.

Of course, these activities are horrible, but the dark web is not bad. Criminal activities thrive there because it provides anonymity, and its dark web links can’t be traced easily.

One of the greatest risks of accessing the dark web is the exposure to malware. Because the dark web is not as controlled as the surface web, you can experience a malware attack and not realize it until after a long time. It is also possible to stumble on shocking images on the dark web.

To avoid malware, use a good antivirus if you use the dark web. Additionally, do not open random links on the dark web to avoid disturbing content.

Dark web stories: true or false?

Many rumors have gone around about the dark web. One such ridiculous and sensational story is that you can hire a hitman on the dark web to kill someone. This sketchy claim is proven to be a myth by a 2020 study on the matter. It was revealed that those sites claiming to offer the service were scams.

You’ve probably also heard about red rooms on the dark web, where people can watch someone getting killed or tortured in real-time. Again, there is no substantial evidence to validate this rumor.

Fact: Many crimes also happen on the surface web.

Many online crimes and scams happen through the dark web, but many of these crimes also happen on the surface web. In fact, cybercriminals operate more on the surface web because there are more potential targets there. Numerous illegal attacks and online scams like QR scams, phishing attacks, and WhatsApp fraud happen on the normal web.

7. Myth: Cryptocurrencies are only used for crime on the dark web

The reason for using the dark web is the anonymity it provides. An additional way to reinforce this anonymity is to make payments using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but it is not limited to the dark web. Surface web users also use cryptocurrencies for anonymous transactions. The claims that cryptocurrencies, the dark web, and criminals form an unholy triangle are untrue.

Fact: Cryptocurrencies provide anonymity but have many other uses.

Besides the dark web, cryptocurrencies have other applications that are not related to the hidden internet at all. People buy things online and remain anonymous by paying for them with cryptocurrencies, while others trade in them. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies can be used as digital currencies because they are anonymous, secure, and transparent.

8. Myth: The only way to get banned books is through the dark web

The government can have various reasons for challenging or banning some books. National security threats could be another or even the spread of dangerous religious ideologies. For example, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written by Harper Lee, has been subjected to such bans due to its racial slurs and offensive use of language.

Fact: Banned books can be found on the surface web.

Contrary to popular belief, banned books are not just found on the dark web. They can also be found on the surface web. For example, Usenet is a platform where banned books are shared. Besides, there are torrent websites where these books are uploaded and special sites where PDF versions of banned books are uploaded for easy downloads.

9. Myth: You can’t be traced when using Tor Browser to access the deep web

Tor is a reliable way to hide your online presence, but it is still possible for the dark web browser to be de-obfuscated.

For example, malicious JavaScript that can reveal your IP address may be introduced into the system. Moreover, Tor uses exit nodes that could compromise your anonymity. Remember that Tor nodes, including entry, middle, and exit nodes, are hosted by volunteer organizations.

Fact: Tor is an excellent way to stay anonymous online, but you can still be tracked.

An exit node is the last server through which your internet traffic leaves the Tor network before it reaches its destination on the internet. This node or relay cannot tell the IP address it receives from but knows where the traffic is headed.

The risk of exposure happens if your destination website uses the unencrypted HTTP protocol instead of HTTPS. The implication is that the exit node’s owner can see everything you are doing on the site. As such, they may be able to discover your identity by monitoring your online activities. It is best to complement your Tor network with top-rated VPNs to keep your traffic safe and secure through encryption.


No, the dark web is largely unsafe. However, you can be sure of the highest level of safety when browsing the dark web if you take precautions by using a reputable VPN like NordVPN and a strong antivirus.

It varies. For instance, using the dark web is completely lawful as long as one does not commit crimes in nations like the UK and the US. On the other hand, visiting the hidden internet is illegal in countries like China and Iran, which have strict internet censorship regulations.

Yes, they could be traced in some cases. While your anonymity is largely protected when you access the dark web using browsers like Tor, your privacy can be compromised if you reveal sensitive information on the platform. Also, if you access websites that are not encrypted, you might be exposing yourself to prying eyes.

The dark web makes up a very small amount of the internet compared to the surface web. According to some estimates, the dark web has about 100,000 web pages. This is a far cry compared to the surface web, which has over five billion indexed pages, and the deep web, which is 500 times bigger than the surface web.

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About the Author

Raji Oluwaniyi

Raji Oluwaniyi

Tech Expert
29 Posts

Raji Oluwaniyi is a well-rounded content creator who enjoys researching, writing, and editing a wide variety of content with minimal oversight. Having written tech-related and hard-core cybersecurity content for three years, he has extensive experience in this field. Currently, he is a content writer at Privacysavvy. By writing value-oriented, engaging content, he hopes to impact a wide audience.

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