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The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The truth 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 market PPE, illicit medications such as 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 area of the internet. Nearly a decade as it started being utilized on a substantial scale, the dark web continues to be a lucrative safe haven for traders in a variety 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 range of illegal goods and services – much like legitimate trading websites such as for example eBay.
So how do darknet marketplaces work? And how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?
Not really a free-for-all
There are still greater 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 market onion – https://encatala.vives.org/forums/topic/whispered-world-market-onion-secrets/ report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we’ve one of many world’s highest concentrations of darknet drug vendors per capita.
Unlike popular belief, cryptomarkets are not 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 beyond your realm of state regulation, each one of these is established and maintained by a central administrator who, along with employees or associates, is accountable for the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators may also be ultimately accountable for determining exactly what do and can’t be sold on their 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 many products
the revenues a niche site makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that could be attracted from police in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.
Experts delve to the dark web
A report from the Australian National University published last week talks about several hundred coronavirus-related products available across a dozen cryptomarkets, including supposed vaccines and antidotes.
While the study confirms some unscrupulous dark web traders are indeed exploiting the pandemic and seeking to defraud naïve customers, these details must certanly be contextualised with a few important caveats.
Firstly, the number of dodgy covid-related products on the market on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account fully for about 0.2% of all listed items. The overwhelming majority of products were those we’re already acquainted with – particularly illicit drugs such as for instance cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis focused on products listed on the market, these are usually listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the particular 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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