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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 obsessed about 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 yet again focused public attention with this little-understood area of the internet. Nearly ten years as it started being used on an important scale, the dark web continues to be a lucrative safe haven for traders in a selection 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 selection of illegal goods and services – much like legitimate trading websites such as eBay.
So how can darknet marketplaces work? And simply 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 globe 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 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 beyond your realm of state regulation, every one is set up and maintained by a central administrator who, alongside employees or associates, is in charge of the darkode market – http://espressobin.net/forums/users/jimmy2852403/’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators will also be ultimately in charge of determining what can and can’t be sold on the 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 certain products
the revenues a 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 in to the dark web
A report from the Australian National University published a week ago discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products available across several 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, this information should be contextualised with a couple of important caveats.
Firstly, the number of dodgy covid-related products available on the dark web is relatively small. According to the research, they take into account about 0.2% of most listed items. The overwhelming most of products were those we are already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as for example cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the research focused on products listed available, these are usually 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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