Masarah Paquet-Clouston

Masters student (2014-2016): Are Cryptomarkets the Future of Drug Dealing? Assessing the Structure of the Drug Market Hosted on Cryptomarkets

Since 2011, drug market participants have had the opportunity to trade illegal drugs through online anonymous marketplaces dubbed cryptomarkets. Cryptomarkets offer a user-friendly infrastructure, similar to eBay, where market participants can meet and conduct business together. These well-designed anonymous platforms offer a professional setting for drug sales, but to what extent they are the future of drug dealing is unclear. This study characterizes the structure of the drug market hosted on cryptomarkets in order to better understand the economic setting of cryptomarket drug vendors. Market competition and the size and scope of drug vendor activities are analyzed. We find that the drug market hosted on cryptomarkets is fiercely competitive and deeply unequal. The size and scope of vendors’ activities are limited. Challenges arise due to the online, anonymity and illegality features of cryptomarket drug transactions. The illegality status of drugs forces vendors’ offline activities to stay within a small size and scope, limiting their potential growth online. The online nature of cryptomarkets fosters competition, but the risks that arise from anonymous transactions exacerbate buyers’ tendency to choose well-reputed and experienced vendors. Thus, vendors face strong barriers to sales and 90% of them act as spectators in the market. This inequality is exacerbated by aggressive advertising conducted by established vendors to push out potential competitors. A paradox is found: the market is fiercely competitive, but also populated by market superstars, whom, however, still have limited size and scope. We conclude that cryptomarkets are not likely be the future of drug dealing because of the challenging environment they offer to cryptomarket drug vendors.

This content has been updated on 14 September 2017 at 10 h 14 min.