Going local on a global platform. A critical analysis of the transformative potential of cryptomarkets for organized illicit drug crime

Since their introduction in 2011 cryptomarkets have, in spite of significant policing efforts, grown at increasing rates reaching daily revenues above 650.000 USD in 2014. A number of studies have established the demand and availability for illicit products on the cryptomarket with regards to purchase sizes and product selections, and cryptomarkets as facilitating redistribution by supplying high quality product. Within the cryptomarket literature there is agreement on a potential transformative potential of cryptomarkets, which allow sourcing on a global market and consequently the circumvention of existing supply chains between producer and end-user. Based on the literature on drug trafficking and -markets, we suggest that this transformative potential, if realized, would manifest in cryptomarket supply from production and transit countries and increased use of international shipping.

Methods: Using data from the DATACRYPTO project collected using webcrawling between 2013 and 2016 we use product reviews as a proxy for buyer behavior (i.e. sales). We first situate the cryptomarket supply of cannabis resin, cocaine and MDMA within existing supply chains by reviewing the supply across locales. We then examine changes in shipping towards domestic, regional and broader markets.

Findings: We find that cryptomarket drug supply in general is predominantly from Europe, North America and Oceania. For both cannabis resin and cocaine sold on cryptomarkets, we find that known production and transit countries are not the primary sellers, but that supply is generally from high consumption countries. In the case of MDMA we observe broader geographic dispersion of sales dominated by the Netherlands, a known production country. We further observe significant tendencies over time towards increased localization of cryptomarkets.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that for some product categories, specifically those that require the involvement of trafficking networks, cryptomarkets do not circumvent existing supply chains, as product is sold after it enters consumption countries. In addition, the observation of an increasing localization of cryptomarket supply suggest that cryptomarkets do not show tendencies towards circumventing known trafficking routes. We suggest that while the cryptomarket does offer a potential global platform for drug distribution, local contexts of culture and structure encompassing access to technology, technological literacy, access to virtual currencies and national borders may explain the absence of production and import countries in the cryptomarket supply.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 18 avril 2018 à 3 h 14 min.