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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 include black market PPE, illicit medications like 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 part of the internet. Nearly a decade since it started being applied to a significant scale, the dark web remains a lucrative safe haven for traders in a variety 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 are anonymised trading platforms that directly connect buyers and sellers of a variety of illegal goods and services – similar to legitimate trading websites such as 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 a free-for-all
There are still higher 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 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.
Unlike popular belief, cryptomarkets are not the “lawless spaces” they’re often presented as in the news. darkode market (http://serwer1397937.home.pl/index.php/26079-being-a-star-in-your-Business-is-a-matter-of-world/0 – http://serwer1397937.home.pl/index.php/26079-being-a-star-in-your-business-is-a-matter-of-world/0) prohibitions exist on all mainstream cryptomarkets. Universally prohibited goods and services include: hitman services, trafficked human organs and snuff movies.
Although cryptomarkets lie away from realm of state regulation, every one is established and maintained by a central 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 will also be ultimately in charge of determining exactly what do and can’t be sold on the cryptomarket. These decisions are 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 police in the trading of particularly dangerous illegal goods and services.
Experts delve into the dark web
A report from the Australian National University published the other day discusses several hundred coronavirus-related products available across twelve 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 records ought to be contextualised with a few important caveats.
Firstly, how many 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 of products were those we are already acquainted with – particularly illicit drugs such as for example cannabis and MDMA.
Also, while the analysis centered on products listed on the market, these are likely listings for products that either do no exist or are listed with the particular intention to defraud a customer.
Thus, the actual sale of fake coronavirus “cures” on the dark web is likely minimal, at best.
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