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August 24, 2021 at 8:58 pm #36885avacolston260
The darknet – a wild west for fake coronavirus ‘cures ‘? The truth is more difficult (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 with this little-understood element of the internet. Nearly 10 years as it started being used on an important scale, the dark web remains a lucrative safe haven for traders in a selection of illegal goods and services, especially illicit drugs.
Black darkode market trading on the dark web is carried out primarily through darknet marketplaces or cryptomarkets. They are anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a range 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 a free-for-all
There are now more 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 have among the 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 established 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 site makes from commissions charged on transactions
and the perceived “heat” that could be attracted from police 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 a week ago discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products available 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 a couple of 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 listed items. The overwhelming most products were those we’re already acquainted with – particularly illicit drugs such as for example cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis focused on products listed on the market, these are most 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.