Home > The rise and challenge of dark net drug markets.

Buxton, Julia and Bingham, Tim (2015) The rise and challenge of dark net drug markets. Swansea: Global Drug Policy Observatory.

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Key Points

  • Recent years have seen a dramatic growth in the sale of a variety of illicit substances on Dark Net drug markets, with on line sales projected to increase exponentially due to expanding internet availability, evolving technologies and the profusion of social media.
  • This new form of retail market poses a major challenge to not only law enforcement agencies but also the UN international drug control system and related legal structures within which these agencies operate.
  • For vendors and purchasers who use the sophisticated, user friendly and increasingly secure Dark Net sites, hidden markets present a safer environment for drug transactions and they reduce the multiple risks (coercion, violence, arrest, exposure to other drugs) associated with ‘street’ sales.
  • Research demonstrates that anonymised user forums and online chat rooms encourage and facilitate information sharing about drug purchases and drug effects, representing a novel form of harm reduction for drug users and an entry point for drug support services.
  • Experience to date shows that enforcement efforts through surveillance, hacking and other forms of interdiction may be successful in closing down a particular site, but at the cost of proliferating hidden drug markets and incentivising technological innovation.
  • Given an acknowledged lack of technical capacity, legal constraints and poor international enforcement coordination, Dark Net interdiction efforts should prioritise high-end crimes such as child sexual exploitation, cyber terrorism and weapons trafficking, and work with self-regulating, ‘ethical’ drug sites to enhance understanding of high-level criminality on the Dark Net.
  • The 2016 UN General Assembly Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem is a timely opportunity to discuss reform of the UN drug control treaty system to better deal with the challenges of the increasingly complex illicit drug market in the twenty-first century.
Date:January 2015
Pages:24 p.
Publisher:Global Drug Policy Observatory
Place of Publication:Swansea
ISBN:ISSN 2054-1910
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Electronic Only)
Related URLs:
Subjects:MM-MO Crime and law > Crime > Substance related crime > Crime associated with substance production and distribution
MM-MO Crime and law > Substance related offence > Drug offence > Illegal distribution of drugs (drug market / dealing)
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Marketing and public relations (advertising) > Internet retailing (online sales / dark web)

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