In the old days, drugs had to be procured from ‘friends’ or ‘dealers.’ However, with the advent of internet and eCommerce, drug peddlers too have gone online. As The Washington Post had earlier reported, anyone with a little knowledge of how the internet works could purchase contraband very easily.
Exactly a year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had managed to bust and shut down a portal called Silk Road, an Amazon equivalent for drugs and other not-so-legal things. Having successfully forced Silk Road to close their shutters, FBI had hoped to take the wind out of illicit drug sales online.
But the online community was just waiting for such an opportunity, and in the time since then, dozens of similar sites – so-called “darknet” markets — have sprung up in Silk Road’s place. Right before shutting down, Silk Road claimed to offer about 18,000 drugs and related items. They could make anything from marijuana to ecstasy to heroin available to anyone who was ready to pay online.
By April this year, a gap of merely six months, there were 10 darknet markets listing 32,000 drug items for sale. Within a year, the online illicit drug industry now has 18 darknet marketplaces with 47,000 drug listings, reported Digital Citizens Alliance.
Unsurprisingly, from cocaine, heroin, opium, amphetamines, MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, mescaline, LSD and marijuana, MDMA was the most popular item by far, with nearly twice as many items listed as marijuana, the second-highest. LSD, cocaine and amphetamines rounded out the top five.
The websites claim online is not just easier, it’s safer too. One of the strongest appeals of e-markets like Silk Road 2.0 is that buyers can rate the quality of the purchased items after their transactions have been completed. This forces the sellers to maintain the highest of standards and offer the purest of products to ensure they continue to enjoy good sales.
Needless to say, if the ratings slide, so do their sales. On the contrary, drugs sold on the street are often quite dangerous as there is no assurance of quality and consistency. For example, MDMA purchased on the street is often laced with potentially life-threatening adulterants. But that is not the case with Silk Road 2.0. The seller rating system, which serves as a direct test for drug quality, is one of the most attractive features of these markets for potential drug buyers.
Though America is loosening its stronghold on marijuana, there are many other potential harmful and seriously addictive drugs out there. Clearly, forcing closures of sites isn’t going to work. How should the authorities curb the menace?
[Image Credit | The Fix, FBI]