According to a recent research, the numerous crackdowns by Europol have not had any effect on the dark web as its demand continues to be on the rise. A similar finding was discovered after the shutdown of the Silk Road market in 2013. According to the research, there was an unprecedented rise in dark web users after that shutdown.
The Reason for the High Dark web Demand
According to the latest study, the high opioid overdose crisis and the drug addiction problems led to the implementation of strict regulations to discourage its use. However, this action has rather pushed opioid consumers and vendors to the dark web to escape from all kinds of strict regulations. This has brought law enforcement to a serious dilemma as it becomes more difficult to combat drug criminals on the dark web. According to the study findings, opioid purchases on 31 dark web markets have doubled since the last time authorities launched a crackdown.
According to Leo Beletsky, an associate professor of Northeastern University, and Scott Hadland of Boston Medical Center’s unit for pediatrics and addiction, the strategy adopted by the government in combating drug crime is not helping. They indicated that a treatment and prevention program would have been more effective than the complete reliance on the law enforcement. The study revealed that the rate of illegal drugs had an inverse relationship with the opioid addiction and drug overdose. To them, the high embrace of the dark web and the fast rising of drug overdoses can be attributed to the fact that there exists alternative markets which offer less expensive and highly available fentanyl.
The researchers said that the strategy of reducing access to drugs is bound to fail when the government does not reduce its demand. It is unclear how the reduction in drug demand can be implemented considering the fact that the dark web remains the source of most of these fentanyl drugs manufactured in China and Mexico. Research has revealed that China has underground labs that manufacture the illegal drugs and distribute them to different parts of the world, most especially, the United States. Loopholes in their postal systems have made it easier for drugs to be delivered to the home addresses of buyers. The United Kingdom also faces a similar problem with a lot of concerns raised about their youth getting involved in the dark web activities. The U.S. government in collaboration with the Dutch government launched a door to door arrest system for Darknet drug buyers and ensured that strict penalties would be imposed on offenders; however, it seems not to scare them in their use of the online black market for illegal drugs.
After the closure of Silk Road market in 2013, a survey was conducted to identify its effect on the general drug sale on the dark web. From the 100,000 responses obtained from people resided in 50 countries, it was revealed that the drug purchases on the dark web increased by 1.4 percent in 2014. It was also discovered that the U.K. had 15 percent of its drug buyers on the dark web. This indicated that the crackdown had no impact on the dark web operation. In 2017, two leading Darknet markets were shutdown, displacing thousands of its users. However, the dark web drug purchases continued to soar.
Beletsky and Hadland indicated in their research paper that this crackdown and the shutdown of Darknet marketplaces work in the moment, but just for a while. According to them, there is the tendency for the market to recover after a temporal time of displacement. This explains why the drug purchases and users on the dark web keep rising no matter how the platforms are being cracked.
They wrote that: “Attempts to disrupt darknet sales are therefore likely to cause an endless game of ‘whack-a-mole’ in which new cryptomarkets surface to replace old ones, and sellers and buyers simply migrate from one site to another”. With this deep revelation, it is expected that authorities would undertake a more efficient strategy to control the drug crisis which has been associated with the dark web.