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The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The reality is harder (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 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 with this little-understood section of the internet. Nearly 10 years since it started being used 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. They’re anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a selection 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 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 around the globe report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we’ve one of the world market – https://www.eshopfiji.com/blog/32283/how-to-make-your-product-the-ferrari-of-world-market?c=3247’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, each one is initiated and maintained by a main administrator who, alongside 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 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 several products
the revenues a site makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that could be attracted from police force in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.
Experts delve in to the dark web
A written report from the Australian National University published last week talks about several hundred coronavirus-related products on the market across several 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 ought to 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 for about 0.2% of most listed items. The overwhelming majority of products were those we’re already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as for instance cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis focused on products listed for sale, these are most likely listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the particular 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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