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The Internet Businesses The Almighty Buck

The Economics of Drug Sales On the Dark Web 53 writes: Allison Schrager has an interesting article about how marketplaces for contraband drugs have only existed for about four years on the dark web, but they've made inroads fast. About 10%-15% of drug users in the U.K., U.S., and Australia [are believed to have] bought drugs off the net. According to Schrager, these marketplaces look remarkably similar to normal online marketplaces. Users leave detailed reviews on the quality of a vendor's product, speed of delivery, and how secure the shipping method was. There's information on where vendors are located and where they'll ship to. Some even post their refund and exchange policies. Purchasing meth from a dealer in the Netherlands feels as familiar and mundane as buying sheets from Macy's. The dark web makes transactions safer.

All the same, there are risks that Macy's customers don't run. Because there's no legal protection for illegal purchases, the bitcoin payments sit in escrow until the goods have been delivered and both parties are satisfied. That exposes the seller to exchange-rate risk, because bitcoin is an extremely volatile currency. And there is one other big source of risk: the point where the virtual world of the dark web and the world of physical reality intersect. In other words, getting drugs delivered. Certain drugs like MDMA and LSD may move mostly online. And the web may become the preferred source for affluent users and small-time pot dealers.
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The Economics of Drug Sales On the Dark Web

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  • Privacy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2015 @12:44PM (#50549909)

    This is a matter of privacy, not criminality.

    The world is a safer place when the government thugs are prevented from meddling in people's lives; the only reason the government is upset is that they're not getting "their" cut of the profits, and they're losing the massive political leverage they've built up for the drug war.

    And, please, don't bother with straw man arguments about Ulbricht hiring murderers, or people buying stolen credit card information. People already did those things.

    Incidentally, the fact that Bitcoin has enabled people conduct highly "illegal" commerce is as sure a sign as any that Bitcoin is both an interesting technology and a potentially lucrative investment, especially given that it has not jurisdiction—if the U.S. makes it troublesome to use Bitcoin, well, there's still the rest of the world out there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this like studies which confirm that 110% of male teens have viewed harcore BDSM since they were eight, taken at least five class A drugs, and slept with nineteen women between the ages of 15 and 50 (at least half of whom were passed out)?

    If a stranger asks you in person, "Have you done any of the following illegal things, and how?" then how you answer it depends on a lot more than your desire to be honest. And if it's an online survey, well, just fuck off.

    • If a stranger asks you in person, "Have you done any of the following illegal things, and how?" then how you answer it depends on a lot more than your desire to be honest. And if it's an online survey, well, just fuck off.

      Or they could simply go through the seller listings on said online markets. Multiply the amount of reviews with the list price and you get a rough lower estimate of total sales. True, some of those might be the seller astroturfing, but the site takes a cut from every sale so spamming is co

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Posting AC for obvious reasons, but at least in the UK you're simply taking a big risk by illegally buying drugs online in my experience. The current Conservative government are extremely hostile towards illegal drug buyers. They can and will intercept shipments and send the police to your door. They can and will prosecute. Sadly we really need massive drug law reform and until we get a reasonable government in place we aren't going to get any.

  • It is likely that grey market prescription medication, such as imports from Canada that aren't allowed to be legally resold at a lower cost in the US, are readily available on the dark web. That aspect of the dark web may be illegal in the US, but it certainly isn't immoral. The benefit is that with a ratings system one would have more confidence that they would be purchasing what their doctor prescribes at a price that they can better afford.
  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:18PM (#50550593) Homepage

    The issue is, pot is going to be legal soon, and anyone who has been following the issue for very long can see the writing on the wall.

    It may briefly be that the dark web will be a prefered resource for the affluent, may even be now for some, but, after things shake out, that is just not going to last

  • Other drugs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @02:28PM (#50550713) Homepage Journal

    Personally, I find the trade of prescription drugs on the dark web more interesting. People buying inhalers over the dark web for $30 because they can't afford the $300 demanded at the pharmacy for the same thing.

    • You can actually just buy them from Canada, eh? They still have old-school inhalers with HFCs in them, and you can order them over the web if you just scan and send your prescription.

  • If the useless Supreme Court wasn't so busy making up laws and being as political as possible, they'd rule that drug-sniffing dogs were not unreasonable search at USPS hubs and catch every one of these idiots who think it's perfectly safe to send drugs through the US mail.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why can't you just mind your own business?

  • Is it? It's been (except for a spike) not so bad over the last 6 months.

  • Kristov Atlas: Fear Not the Silk Road (Full speech w/ slides) []

    His intro is pretty long, so maybe you want to skip that: []

    A big part from what he says is:
    Dark markets can circumvent capital controls:
    - tax avoidance (with the multiple layers of taxes, dark markets are a lot cheaper)
    - trade barriers (trade anything with anyone)

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin