Platform Criminalism: The 'Last-Mile' Geography of the Darknet Market Supply Chain

by   Martin Dittus, et al.

Does recent growth of darknet markets signify a slow reorganisation of the illicit drug trade? Where are darknet markets situated in the global drug supply chain? In principle, these platforms allow producers to sell directly to end users, bypassing traditional trafficking routes. And yet, there is evidence that many offerings originate from a small number of highly active consumer countries, rather than from countries that are primarily known for drug production. In a large-scale empirical study, we determine the darknet trading geography of three plant-based drugs across four of the largest darknet markets, and compare it to the global footprint of production and consumption for these drugs. We present strong evidence that cannabis and cocaine vendors are primarily located in a small number of consumer countries, rather than producer countries, suggesting that darknet trading happens at the 'last mile', possibly leaving old trafficking routes intact. A model to explain trading volumes of opiates is inconclusive. We cannot find evidence for significant production-side offerings across any of the drug types or marketplaces. Our evidence further suggests that the geography of darknet market trades is primarily driven by existing consumer demand, rather than new demand fostered by individual markets.


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