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The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The stark reality is harder (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 including the widely touted “miracle” drug chloroquine, and fake COVID-19 “cures” including blood supposedly from recovered coronavirus patients.
These dealings have once more focused public attention with this little-understood section of the internet. Nearly a decade because it started being utilized on an important 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. They’re anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a variety of illegal goods and services – much like legitimate trading websites such as for example eBay.
So how do darknet marketplaces work? And just how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?
Not just a free-for-all
There are still greater than a dozen darknet marketplaces in operation. Protected by powerful encryption technology, authorities around the world market – https://www.jobhase.at/user/profile/138193 have largely failed to contain their growth. A steadily increasing proportion of illicit drug users all over the world report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we’ve one of many world’s highest concentrations of darknet drug vendors per capita.
Contrary to 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 outside the realm of state regulation, each one of these is set up and maintained by a main administrator who, along side 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 likely informed by:
the attitudes of the surrounding community comprising buyers and sellers
the extent of consumer demand and supply for several products
the revenues a website 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 report from the Australian National University published the other day discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products on the market 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, these details should really be contextualised with a few important caveats.
Firstly, the amount of dodgy covid-related products available on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account fully for about 0.2% of all listed items. The overwhelming most of products were those we’re already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as for instance cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the study centered on products listed available, these are likely listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the specific intention to defraud a customer.
Thus, the specific sale of fake coronavirus “cures” on the dark web is probable minimal, at best.
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