Modern Drug Dealers

In Shedding light on the Dark Web, an article from The Economist, the author (author unknown) gives a full view of the online drug markets. These markets make up part of the dark web, “sites only accessible through browsers such as Tor, which route communications via several computers and layers of encryption, making them almost impossible for law enforcement to track.” Users contact through encrypted, dark web specific email and transactions are completed with bitcoins, allowing great levels of anonymity. The Economist found data that estimated sales between three dark web sites from 2013 to 2015 at $50 million. Within these findings, they observed that drugs sold on the dark web are more expensive than street prices which can be chalked up to the risks included with a package being intercepted and the higher quality of drugs online. Quality assurance comes from the rating and feedback of customers posted to forums and other sites. The article concluded with the idea of the similarity of the situation to the online retail boom of the 90’s “when department stores downplayed the threat posed by insurgent e-tailers. Those department stores have since built websites of their own — or gone out of business.” It may be time for traditional drug dealers to look at cryptomarkets.

Online drug markets are a fascinating look at how the evolution of the internet has affected society. Drugs have been used for thousands of years, originally being gathered or found and at a certain point they started to be sold. Even with the emergence of the internet, drugs were still traded largely in the way that they had been for years. Now, with the availability of extra secure browsers, multiple layers of encryption, and digital currency, people can purchase drugs online. Furthermore, cross-checking of quality was previously only available by word of mouth. While this is by no means a good thing that drugs are more easily pervasive today because of the dark web, it is an amazing testament to how the new developments of the internet have restructured significant fabrics of our society.

Immediately after finishing this article, I began to think about the likelihood of this anonymity being able to continue online. Michael Froomkin’s “From Anonymity to Identification” offers a lot of room for thought on this in relation to the dark web. This excerpt is particularly applicable:

In the process of offering anonymity as a response to surveillance, it will be important to deal with the very legitimate, and if not legitimate certainly honestly and deeply felt, concerns of people who think that there is something wrong with anonymity, that it encourages people to be bad. Part of that solution will be to devise otherways to deal with the bad things people do online. (Froomkin 135).

While the start of the passage is related to the everyday user’s desire for anonymity, the concluding portion touches directly on the dark web. I don’t believe governments should attempt to or will take away opportunities for anonymity online. For one, it would be an extremely difficult task. Most of all, I think we should know by know that people will find some new way to get around it. If the dark web isn’t proof enough of our generation being creative enough to get around the law, I don’t know what is.

Sources:

“Shedding Light on The Dark Web.” The Economist16 July 2016, www.economist.com/news/international/21702176-drug-trade-moving-street-online-cryptomarkets-forced-compete. Accessed 11 Nov. 2016.

Froomkin, Michael. From Anonymity to Identification. Research Council of Field of Focus 4, 2015.