Unbeknownst to many, drugs, along with various other illegal commodities such as forged documents and weapons are actually available to be purchased online. Though some technical knowledge is needed in order to do this, buying drugs online from these so called “darknet” markets is alive and thriving.
The most prominent of these websites was Silk Road, a website that was shut down by the FBI in October of 2013. Though their intention of shutting down the site was to disrupt the sale of drugs online, it appears that the opposite has happened. Not only did Silk Road 2.0 pop up after its downfall, but the majority of online drug sales migrated elsewhere, as Silk Road only accounted for roughly 25% of all illegal drug sales online.
Silk Road was a completely hidden marketplace in what is known as the “Deep Web” online. Accessing the site required hiding the users online presence through a series of protocols. But once accessed, Silk Road was an extremely viable black market, with buyers and sellers able to communicate freely. Think Amazon, but for drugs.
Silk Road utilized the crypto-currency BitCoin in order to process its transactions, a type of online currency that provided an amount of anonymity. At its peak, Silk Road had almost 4000 different vendors, nearly 150,000 buyers, and generated over 1.2 billion in revenue at the then current BitCoin exchange rates. Near 30% of its users were from the United States alone.
The Future of Darknet Economies
When it comes to the darknet economy, the general law enforcement impulse seems to be “shut everything down.” Unfortunately, more often than not even when one site shuts down, the traffic moves on elsewhere. Then there is the argument that shutting down darknet sites makes the world more dangerous overall, increasing crime and drug use in the inner cities. The emphasis on quality means that darknet purchasers are getting purer, safer product than they would otherwise. This would lead to lower harm and loss of life due to ingesting adulterated drugs.
Even more to the point, when people buy drugs online, they are not purchasing them from local dealers or open air drug markets. By doing this, end users are effectively lowering crime and violence overall within the inner city. The basis for this argument is that people who decide to use are going to do it any way they can, and at least online they can be sure they are getting a quality product. Regardless, the use of illicit drugs no matter how they are attained promotes illicit behavior.
What are your thoughts?
What remains to be seen if online dark markets continue is if the ease of buying drugs online will lead to increased use overall, especially for more illicit drugs such as heroin and methamphetamines. The harm to society overall because of this could outweigh any benefit born from safer online transactions. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that extremely dangerous illicit drugs are available for anyone to purchase online, right in their very own homes. What are your thoughts?