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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 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 once more focused public attention on this little-understood portion of the internet. Nearly 10 years since it started being applied to an important scale, the dark web continues to be 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 range of illegal goods and services – just like legitimate trading websites such as for example eBay.
So how can 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 higher than a dozen darknet marketplaces in operation. Protected by powerful encryption technology, authorities all over the world market onion – https://www.findescort.gr/ads/darkode-market-what-can-your-study-from-your-critics/ have largely failed to contain their growth. A steadily increasing proportion of illicit drug users all over the world report sourcing their drugs online. In Australia, we’ve among the 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, along with employees or associates, is accountable for the market’s security, dispute resolution between buyers and sellers, and the charging of commissions on transactions.
Administrators are also ultimately in charge of determining what can and can’t be sold on the cryptomarket. These decisions are most 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 niche site makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that may 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 a week ago talks about several hundred coronavirus-related products on the market 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 be contextualised with a couple of important caveats.
Firstly, the number of dodgy covid-related products for sale on the dark web is relatively small. According to this research, they account for about 0.2% of most listed items. The overwhelming most products were those we’re already familiar with – particularly illicit drugs such as for example cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis focused on products listed on the market, these are likely listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the precise intention to defraud a customer.
Thus, the particular sale of fake coronavirus “cures” on the dark web is probable minimal, at best.
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