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The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The stark reality is more complicated (and regulated)
The coronavirus pandemic has spawned reports of unregulated health products and fake cures being sold on the dark web. These generally include black darkode market – https://jobgirl247.ru/user/profile/188471 PPE, illicit medications like the widely touted “miracle” drug chloroquine, and fake COVID-19 “cures” including blood supposedly from recovered coronavirus patients.
These dealings have yet again focused public attention with this little-understood section of the internet. Nearly 10 years as it started being utilized on a substantial scale, the dark web continues to be a lucrative safe haven for traders in a range of illegal goods and services, especially illicit drugs.
Black market trading on the dark web is carried out primarily through darknet marketplaces or cryptomarkets. These are anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a variety of illegal goods and services – similar to legitimate trading websites such as eBay.
So how can darknet marketplaces work? And how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?
Not a free-for-all
There are currently higher than a dozen darknet marketplaces in operation. Protected by powerful encryption technology, authorities around the globe have largely didn’t contain their growth. A steadily increasing proportion of illicit drug users around the world report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we’ve among the world’s highest concentrations of darknet drug vendors per capita.
Despite popular belief, cryptomarkets aren’t the “lawless spaces” they’re often presented as in the news. Market prohibitions exist on all mainstream cryptomarkets. Universally prohibited goods and services include: hitman services, trafficked human organs and snuff movies.
Although cryptomarkets lie away from realm of state regulation, each one is initiated and maintained by a main administrator who, along side employees or associates, is in charge of the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators are also ultimately responsible for determining so what can and can’t be sold on the cryptomarket. These decisions are most likely informed by:
the attitudes of the surrounding community comprising buyers and sellers
the extent of consumer demand and supply for certain products
the revenues a niche site makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that may be attracted from police in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.
Experts delve to the dark web
A written report from the Australian National University published the other day talks about several hundred coronavirus-related products for sale across a dozen cryptomarkets, including supposed vaccines and antidotes.
While the research confirms some unscrupulous dark web traders are indeed exploiting the pandemic and seeking to defraud naïve customers, this information should really be contextualised with a couple of important caveats.
Firstly, how many dodgy covid-related products for sale on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account for about 0.2% of most listed items. The overwhelming most of products were those we’re already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis centered on products listed for sale, these are usually listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the specific intention to defraud a customer.
Thus, the actual sale of fake coronavirus “cures” on the dark web is probable minimal, at best.
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