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The Dark Web's Connection to Organ Trafficking

The Internet is a much bigger platform than most people probably have realized. There is only 4% of available information from the Internet that ordinary civilians can see. The other 96% of the Internet consists of the dark web and the deep web, which are not accessible through standard search engines.

The US government created the dark web as we know it in the 1990s in order to have a secure network to communicate with US spies. Although created without malicious intent, it quickly turned into a marketplace that some of the most sophisticated criminals use to traffic everything from child pornography to organs. The Onion Router, otherwise known as the Tor network, has many layers of technology to keep sites hidden on regular browsers like Google. Although the FBI found that of 200 domains on the dark web, 75% were illegal, many use the Tor network if they live under strict authoritarian regimes that limit internet access. The dark web has various purposes, for example, it protects criminals by staying anonymous as well as exposing the truth to individuals who are repressed from certain media outlets. That being said, the FBI and Europol have seized dozens of hidden services including six of the most popular drug markets on the dark web, but while drug and sex trafficking remain these organizations top priorities, organ trafficking remains largely unpoliced and the dark web is its most prevalent marketplace.

Organ trafficking began gaining attention in India in the 1980s and quickly moved to other Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries such as China. After the world became aware that China used executed prisoners as donors, the World Health Organization Assembly created eleven guiding principles for transplantation in 2010 that they strongly urged countries to follow. Of the eleven principles, organ trafficking clearly violates six of them. The WHO clearly defines transplantation as free from coercion, unethical practices, and unsafe procedures. It stipulates that doctors should be banned from accepting any form of monetary compensation that exceeds the norm for a procedure and donors should only be donating for altruistic reasons, not for personal financial gains. Organ traffickers preys on low-income individuals living in developing countries because the traffickers and brokers know that $1,000 for their kidney could change these individuals’ lives even if it is obscenely lower than what is deemed reasonable. The documentary Tales from the Organ Trade illustrates the inequality of organ trafficking by interviewing donors from the Philippines. The donors each received around $1,000 after the brokerage fee for their kidney. Though they were originally promised more, due to all the middle men in the organ trade, $1,000 was all that remained. The documentary also explained that the compensation for “donating” your organ on the dark web varies depending on how poor your country is. A recipient was also interviewed; he was a wealthy white male who paid $100,000 USD for a black market kidney. This pressing issue has been ongoing for decades, but due to its low-profile being on the darkweb, this injustice has otrciously been overlooked.

The dark web and the organ trade are intertwined and largely unparolled due to their secretive nature. The dark web allows criminals to have a marketplace due to cryptocurrency and the organ trade preys on poor minorities for their organs and refuses to compensate donors properly. The organ trade could not have reached such magnitude without the dark web. Individuals in need of organs can “shop” for one on the dark web and continue to support a form of human trafficking that thrives off the exploitation of others.


  1. Rosenbach, Aditi Kumar and Eric. The Truth About The Dark Web – IMF F&D,

  2. Efrat, Asif. “Analysis | Organ Traffickers Lock up People to Harvest Their Kidneys. Here Are the Politics behind the Organ Trade.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Apr. 2019,

  3. Bienstock, Ric Esther, director. Tales From the Organ Trade. HBO Documentary FIlms, 2013.


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