Introduction by James Martin (The Author)
Drugs on the Dark Net: How Cryptomarkets Are Transforming the Global Trade in Illicit Drugs, explores the fascinating world of online drug trading. It is a non-technical book intended for both academics and non-specialist audiences, combining criminological analysis with original research gathered on the dark net. The primary focus is on cryptomarkets, online trading hubs which facilitate the sale and distribution of illicit drugs, as well as vast range of other black market goods and services.
There are four main analysis chapters, each dedicated to examining cryptomarkets from a different perspective:
The first chapter grounds the concept of the cryptomarket in broader scholarly knowledge and presents these illicit sites as complex and multifaceted entities. Online drug dealing is discussed in relation to various conceptions of cybercrime. Cryptomarkets are also analysed as sites of informal nodal governance, and various nodal resources, mentalities, technologies and institutions are identified. Other issues discussed include online collective identity, inter-site migration and digital ‘refugees’, as well as community and political affiliations.
Chapter 2 explores how cryptomarkets operate from a commercial perspective. The processes involved with the buying and selling of illicit drugs online are outlined, as are the significant benefits available to both vendors and consumers who trade drugs online. Website and vendor-specific branding and marketing strategies are analysed, revealing a remarkable degree of convergence with approaches employed by businesses in the legitimate economy. User feedback and automated ranking systems are also discussed as critical to the success of cryptomarkets.
Chapter 3 presents a comparison between conventional, offline drug distribution networks and those forming through cryptomarkets. Unlike conventional drug distribution networks, which are often sprawling and highly inefficient, online networks facilitate much more direct relationships between drug vendors and consumers. Comparative analysis of these networks indicates that cryptomarkets are able to consistently offer cheaper and higher quality goods when compared to conventional drug sources. Online networks are also found to ameliorate much of the systemic violence associated with the conventional drugs trade.
The final chapter examines online drug trading from the perspective of law enforcement. The various challenges and tactical approaches associated with policing cryptomarkets are analysed, including specialised undercover operations, postal interdiction, surveillance and domestic evidence gathering and prosecution. Online drug traders are presented as significantly more challenging targets for law enforcement agencies when compared to those who conduct illicit transactions in-person. The broader strategic and ideological conflict between cryptomarket users and law enforcement agencies are also outlined, indicating serious long-term problems for prohibition agencies as online traders continue to grow and assume a greater proportion of the global drugs trade.
Drugs on the Dark Net presents an accessible and rigorously researched academic case outlining the various complexities, as well as significant benefits associated with the rise of online drug trading. It also proposes a range of compelling reasons as to why cryptomarkets are likely to expand further in the future. Ultimately, the book argues that cryptomarkets present a more competitive, accountable and less violent alternative to the conventional trade in illicit drugs.