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Whispered World Market Onion Secrets

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The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The reality is more difficult (and regulated)

The coronavirus pandemic has spawned reports of unregulated health products and fake cures being sold on the dark web. These include black market 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 once again focused public attention on this little-understood area of the internet. Nearly 10 years since it started being applied to a significant 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 are 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 instance eBay.

So just how do darknet marketplaces work? And simply how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?

Not just 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 all over the world market onion – http://www.agriverdesa.it/?option=com_k2&view=itemlist&task=user&id=1816833 report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we have among the world’s highest concentrations of darknet drug vendors per capita.

Unlike 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 of these is initiated and maintained by a main administrator who, along side employees or associates, is responsible for the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.

Administrators will also be ultimately responsible for determining exactly what do and can’t be sold on their cryptomarket. These decisions tend 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 could be attracted from police in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.

Experts delve into the dark web

A report from the Australian National University published a week ago discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products on the market across twelve cryptomarkets, including supposed vaccines and antidotes.

While the analysis confirms some unscrupulous dark web traders are indeed exploiting the pandemic and seeking to defraud naïve customers, these details should be contextualised with several important caveats.

Firstly, how many dodgy covid-related products available on the dark web is relatively small. According to the research, they account fully for about 0.2% of all listed items. The overwhelming most of products were those we’re already knowledgeable about – particularly illicit drugs such as cannabis and MDMA.

Also, while the study dedicated to products listed on the market, these are likely 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 likely minimal, at best.

  

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