The Internet has provided a new portal for narcotics customers and suppliers to gain access to illicit drugs, says the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). According to a research report by the organization, Dark Net Market (DNM) usage is rising in popularity.
Dark Net Markets Are Growing Exponentially and Overcoming Intervention
The Deep web has become a breeding ground for illicit activity and unusual content, says the EMCDDA’s recent research paper. According to the group, a lot of the attention given to this hidden section of the Internet has been directed at online marketplaces that play an important role in criminal activity, “particularly with respect to sales of new psychoactive substances.”
EMCDDA explains that the markets are rapidly developing, and it’s possible these DNM’s may be diminishing some middle levels in the drug supply chain. The organization details that continued monitoring may determine whether a drug market “divide” will continue.
Certain tools are helping facilitate the exponential growth of these markets, says the EMCDDA. This includes technologies such as the Onion Router (Tor) for anonymization purposes, and the use of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin.
The European think-tank highlights that these techniques continue to evolve. Even with law enforcement hot on the tails of these drug havens, the EMCDDA explains these markets are continuing to adapt regularly as time progresses.
The report details:
These markets have proven to be very adaptable, and it appears that the effects of such interventions on the online anonymous ecosystem are short term and those operating such sites develop new ways to evade detection, for example by improving encryption and anonymization. It is suggested that a likely future development will be completely decentralized marketplaces that exploit aspects of game theory to side-step current weaknesses — perhaps a ‘dark cloud’ on the horizon.
European Origins and Safer Environments
The EMCDDA says that MDMA, Cannabis and LSD are the three most popular choices of narcotics found on DNMs. Most suppliers of these illicit drugs come from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. According to the report, the EU has been a significant origin point of these drugs, based on results from studying Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0.
“Although it is not clear how complete and representative such data are,” the EMCDDA explains, “the findings suggest that Europe may be a significant player in global online drug marketplaces.”
Even though DNM’s have been “growing and serving an increasing customer base,” there have been some positives, according to the researchers.
Data has shown that drug quality has increased, as well as a “higher level of security” for customers — who would other wise have to deal with street dealers. Additionally, online reputation systems have bettered the marketplaces with forums, chat rooms, and vendor ratings that praise good customer service and warn of bad products.
These features promote safer drug use, according to the report, as people can inform themselves of the “effects arising from use, modes of use and appropriate dosage.”
EU Officials Will Still Try to Hinder the Growth of the Online Drug Trade
Even though the DNM’s provide a safer environment, European officials are poised towards tackling these illicit marketplaces with the help from law enforcement. This monitoring is an essential element in the European policy cycle against “organized and serious international crime.” The EMCDDA explains that the organization, along with authorities, will continue to monitor the activities of the DNMs.
The research paper notes that DNMs will most likely continue to grow, and that production and drug trafficking are “key issues in the EU’s renewed internal security strategy.”
What do you think about the EMCDDA report concerning the Deep Web drug trade? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via the EMCDDA website, and Pixabay.
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