The use of the Dark Web as a COVID-19 information source : A three-country study
Sirola, A., Nuckols, J., Nyrhinen, J., & Wilska, T.-A. (2022). The use of the Dark Web as a COVID-19 information source : A three-country study. Technology in Society, 70, Article 102012. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2022.102012
Published inTechnology in Society
© 2022 the Authors
The Dark Web (i.e., the anonymous web or Darknet) contains potentially harmful COVID-19-related information and content such as conspiracy theories and forged certificates. The Dark Web may particularly attract individuals who are suspicious about the pandemic, but there is no research concerning the use of the Dark Web as a COVID-19 information source. In this study, we investigated the role of COVID-19 skepticism, online activities, and loneliness in the use of the Dark Web platforms as a COVID-19 information source. The data (N = 3000) were gathered in April 2021 from 18 to 75-year-old respondents from Finland (n = 1000), Sweden (n = 1000) and the United Kingdom (n = 1000). The respondents were asked how often they had utilized Dark Web platforms (for example via TOR-network) as a COVID-19 information source during the pandemic. Self-reported measures of institutional trust, anti-vaccine stances, restriction obedience, online activities, and loneliness were used as predictors in the logistic regression model. Age, gender, and education were also included in the model. The Dark Web use was more prevalent in the UK and Sweden. There was an association between anti-vaccine stances and active Dark Web use in the UK and Sweden, while low institutional trust predicted use among Finnish respondents. In all countries, restriction disobedience was related to Dark Web use as a COVID-19 information source. Frequent online gambling, increased social media use, and loneliness predicted Dark Web use, and these associations were even stronger among frequent Dark Web users than occasional users. Younger age and male gender were also associated with Dark Web use. The unregulated nature of the Dark Web makes it a risky alternative to COVID-19 information, attracting individuals who are suspicious about the pandemic and overall active online users. Misleading information and availability of forged certificates on the Dark Web challenge official health policies, posing significant risks for both individual and public health. ...
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Related funder(s)Academy of Finland
Funding program(s)Others, AoF; Strategic research programmes, AoF
Additional information about fundingThis work was supported by the Academy of Finland (decision #335635) and the Strategic Research Council established within the Academy of Finland (decision #327237).
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