The Rise of the CryptoMarket: How Illicit Drugs Are Sold Online

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If you were concerned about the company your children are keeping and that they might be gaining access to illegal drugs through social networks in the neighborhood or at school, you may need to refocus your efforts to your own home. The online drug trade is exploding, and it’s largely flying under the radar. Although it’s long been assumed that shady dealings in outlawed substances are taking place on the “dark net,” the trade is entering the mainstream as more people become privy to how to track down what they want.

The rise of cryptocurrency and “cryptomarkets” are not completely unrelated. As mediums like Bitcoin and others have gained popularity, they’ve also been a driving force behind the online drug trade. Bitcoin can be used much in the same way that cash can on the street: anonymously. It’s that reason that many people are finding it a suitable currency to pay for illegal items or services.

This has also been one of the major criticisms of Bitcoin: that it can be used to purchase drugs. But if cash can be used to do the same thing, the logic seems to fall apart.

The bust of the “Silk Road” — a large illicit goods and services market that existed online for several years — fetched the FBI around $28 million in Bitcoin when it was finally shut down, and its operator was arrested. This was largely hailed as a big hit against the online drug trade.

But according to a number of reports, the bust seems to only have inspired others to start up their own markets, leading to illicit online trading grounds that are flourishing. As a piece at The Conversation discusses, these markets are as advanced as anyone could hope for. There are “seller” pages, with feedback and reviews, ratings systems, and even terms and conditions that sellers and buyers abide by.

It’s as if someone took Amazon or eBay, flipped those platforms into one that only sells illegal drugs, and put it online. These sites are actually that intricate.