Black Markets

Researchers Ponder Whether Online Drug Markets Like Silk Road Reduce Violence


Also potentially good news for anybody whose drug dealer is also the IT guy
Credit: virginsuicide photography / photo on flickr

Though the online illicit black market Silk Road developed a reputation for being an "Ebay for Drugs" (before being shut down by the feds), two professors have taken a closer look and found otherwise. In actuality, it appears as though a significant amount of drug sales could best be classified as "business-to-business"—drug manufacturers selling to drug dealers.

Therefore University of Lausanne criminologist David Decary-Hetu and University of Manchester law professor Judith Aldridge want us to consider the idea that the growing interest in online illegal drug vending (Silk Road saw an increase of 600 percent in drug sales over the course of a single year) could actually reduce violence in the illegal drug market. Wired took note of the study:

"This new breed of drug dealer is… likely to be relatively free from the violence typically associated with traditional drug markets," reads the paper, the title of which calls Silk Road "a paradigm-shifting criminal innovation." "Whereas violence [in the traditional drug trade] was commonly used to gain market share, protect turfs and resolve conflicts, the virtual location and anonymity that the cryptomarket provides reduces or eliminates the need – or even the ability – to resort to violence.

"In the drugs cryptomarket era," the paper adds, "having good customer service and writing skills…may be more important than muscles and face-to-face connections."

They don't have any numbers to back up their ideas as factual, and Silk Road's sales, despite their growth, were a drop in the bucket of all drug sales. But the professors' point is that if the online drug market expands at the rate it did during Silk Road's existence, certain market pressures would be relieved.

The report can be downloaded here. Color me a bit skeptical. A certain amount of the drug violence worldwide is based on control of space to grow and manufacture drugs, and the market going virtual won't change the situation (but then, how much of that violence is between drug cartels and governments?). The inability for those who are engaged in the drug trade to turn to the police and courts when they're victimized remains a problem. People may not get mugged or killed in drug-related violence on the street level as much, but we could see more cybercrime among participants. The drug market will still be a competitive market, and because the government insists on prosecution, participants still lack protection. A virtual marketplace may introduce a significant amount of safety, but not nearly as much as decriminalization.

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  1. This would require the online drug market to be able to continue to guarentee it’s customers virtual anonymity. That is – you need buyers and sellers to be able to establish an online reputation, without connecting that identity to their real identity.

    Given the abilities of the NSA and the potential for information to be tranferred between the NSA and law enforcement that seems unlikely.

    At the moment, I would bet that the FBI has it’s eyes on every online marketplace, and is working hard to develop the same tools that the NSA has.

    1. Darkcoin and other technologies basically ensure anonymity.

      1. Maybe, but I’m talking about ensuring anonymity of your online profile on the drug market.

        1. Something called ‘Dark Market’ might make the whole ‘profile’ thing obsolete.

          1. How will buyers and sellers establish trust if they can’t rate and review one another?

            How do you know if the guy on the other end of the transaction is someone who reneged on his last deal, or an established player with 30,000 transactions?

    2. Anonymity doesn’t need to be bulletproof, so much as requiring significant effort to negate.

      Risk averse people are never going to sell on Silk Road. That’s not the goal. The goal is to take all the people physically selling drugs (with all the risks that that entails) and move them to an online market.

      You just have to be better than the alternatives.

      1. I don’t know. Since everything on the internet pretty much leaves a permanent record (and if the site doesn’t, the FBI probably keeps archives), any transaction may eventually be tracked down by law enforcement. There will always be more computing power in the future for them to go back and figure out who made all those transactions 10 years ago.

  2. …could actually reduce violence in the illegal drug market.

    Pull their funding.

  3. If you can’t get jumped when making deliveries as a dealer, or have your supply stolen because no one knows who or where you are, or get beaten by the cops when they nail you because you had to physically deliver the product, yes, you have just reduced violence at least in what the middleman dealer sees. Maybe not at the production end, but anonymous not-in-person handoff of product are way safer than in person.

    1. Our children being able to buy meth, at all, is terrorism.

      You deserve nothing less than a flashbang… to the face.

      1. That’s why I used Silk Road, Paul. See how it prevented that?

        1. I’m sure some well meaning nana will eventually send a flashbang your way just to make the world a slightly better place.

          1. That’s why I always open all my mail wearing a fencing mask, a lead apron, and wild-animal-handling gloves. And nothing else.

            1. Have you considered a lead gonad shield? I’d hate for you to be sterili…wait, ignore that link.

              It’s just very malware-encrusted, man-on-orangutan porn. Shit, you’re probably into that.

              It’s a wholesome family sitting down to a very plain dinner while talking about your least favorite genre of literature.

              Whew. Bullet dodged.

              1. I already have three of those, jesse. I can’t have the possibility of having more illegitimate children be taken away from me.

                Ezekial: Daddy?

                Carl: Next door, jackass. [slams door]

                [Ezekial knocks on the Aqua Teens’ door, and Shake answers]

                Ezekial: Daddy!

                Master Shake: No, no! You’re, uh…you’re probably thinking the guy next door. Big, fat guy; you take care.

                [Ezekial starts to walk back towards Carl’s house; Carl racks a sawnoff shotgun; Ezekiel runs away.]

                Carl: That’s right, get lost!

  4. Livetweeting the historic Seattle $15 minimum wage vote:

    Evan Bush
    David Rolf, SEIU: “What will be remembered 100 years from now is if a handful of brave souls managed to stand up for the American dream.”…..-wage-law/

    1. Does a McDonald’s franchise count as a small business (like it really is) or is it lumped in as a big employer?

    2. So this is actually happening?

      1. Cyto: Yarp


        Big employer. At least as far as I know. I mean, 70% of this whole thing has been about ‘fast food workers’.

        Wouldn’t that be a hoot if they got exempted ’cause they were a franchise.

        Evan Bush
        Kshama Sawant: “I have not met a single person who claims McDonalds or Starbucks or any other big business needs a phase-in.” #minimumwage

        2:53 PMTwitter
        Evan Bush
        Again, chants of “shame” from #15now supporters as city council keeps 3-month delay for #minimumwage .

        2:51 PMTwitter
        Evan Bush
        Now, council is discussing 3-month delay. Kshama Sawant says business owners “knew this was coming.” Says it will cause “massive confusion.”

        Socialists pissed because 3 month delay.

        1. “I have not met a single person who claims McDonalds or Starbucks or any other big business needs a phase-in.”

          Socialist: I haven’t met a single person that [has any opinion that counters my long-discredited philosophy]”

        2. They’re pissed because they don’t care about the wage increase, they care about sticking it to “corporations”. Making them wait three months makes them petulantly angry, especially when they can taste this.

          If this thing passes, how many Belltown restaurants are going to close within a few months?

          1. Maybe a hint could be found nearby?

            Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time cleaning lady.

            “It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.

            “Why?” I asked.

            “I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.

            1. Oh sure, and I’m going to see it up close because I live in the part of town where many of the restaurants, bars, small concert halls, and the like are. Because it’s the service industry that’s going to take the brunt of this.

              1. I can’t WAIT for this to pass so I can see this blow up in their faces.

                For this reason I wholeheartedly oppose any delay and any kind of gradualism. Let’s make it a $20 minimum wage, and let’s have it begin July 4th! Bring on all the obvious (yet “unforeseen”) consequences and never forget who’s ideas they spring from.

            2. But…Intentions.

    3. Would be great if some groups were documenting key economic indicators, statistics, sales, employment by age, race, education, etc. etc. in impacted industries in Seattle beforehand to do a before after analysis. I actually would love to see a good analysis on this because it comes up so often. I’m not $10 would have made a huge impact but I think $15 would make for a good study case.

      1. A friend of mine actually suggested that to me this morning. Take a ‘snapshot’ of the businesses impacted, then see how it changes.

      2. My thought would be that it would impact jobs and that the people that will lose their jobs are the people without other options due to lack of education and experience.

        1. Well, then there are the workers that put in time, loyalty and effort who already make $15 an hour. What happens to them? Well, they should get raised to $20.

          Then there are the workers that put in even more time, loyalty and effort who already made $20. What happens to them? Well, they should get raised to $25.

          Rinse, repeat.

          1. Huh? That’s not really how it works…

  5. Update on baby that took flashbang… to the face.

    If you want the good shit, zip forward to 8:00 where the dude talks about police brutality.

    Baby is in surgery today.

    1. If by that you mean enough to cause my already hypercaffeinated blood to boil, then yeah, good shit.

      1. The fourth largest local policing agency and the largest Sheriff’s Department in the United States, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, or LASD, is home of one of the most experienced and respected SWAT units in the country. The SEB is often looked to by national and international law enforcement agencies for training and advice. Responsible for a territory of 4,752 sq mi, with a population of 3,000,000+, they are also one of the busiest teams in the United States.

        Source: Flashbang Magazine

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