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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 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 on this little-understood area of the internet. Nearly a decade because it started being used on a substantial scale, the dark web remains 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. They’re 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 just 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://babel-rental.com/author/roseanne64r/ have largely didn’t 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.
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 beyond your realm of state regulation, each one of these is set up and maintained by a main administrator who, alongside employees or associates, is responsible for the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators may 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 many 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 into the dark web
A report from the Australian National University published a week ago discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products for sale 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, these details must certanly 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 account fully for about 0.2% of most listed items. The overwhelming most of products were those we are already knowledgeable about – particularly illicit drugs such as for example cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis dedicated to products listed available, these are usually listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the precise 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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