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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 such as 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 on this little-understood portion of the internet. Nearly a decade as it started being utilized on a substantial scale, the dark web remains 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 – similar to legitimate trading websites such as for instance eBay.
So how can darknet marketplaces work? And how much illegal trading of COVID-19-related products is happening via these online spaces?
Not just a free-for-all
There are currently greater than a dozen darknet marketplaces in operation. Protected by powerful encryption technology, authorities all over the world 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.
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 is set up and maintained by a main administrator who, along with employees or associates, is in charge of the darkode market – https://donne-single.com/user/profile/1767197’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators will also be ultimately responsible for determining so what can 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 many products
the revenues a website makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that could be attracted from law enforcement in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.
Experts delve to the dark web
A written report from the Australian National University published last week talks about several hundred coronavirus-related products for sale across a dozen 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, the number of dodgy covid-related products on the market on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account for about 0.2% of listed items. The overwhelming most products were those we’re already acquainted with – particularly illicit drugs such as cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the study centered on products listed on the market, 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 likely minimal, at best.
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