The number of drug deals on the dark web are in the tens of thousands. (Flickr: Adrian Clarke (CC BY-ND 2.0))
Australia owns a sizeable chunk of the narcotics market on the dark web, according to new research released by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Which countries are selling which drugs?
- 36 per cent of cannabis sales were made by people in the US, followed by UK, Germany and Canada
- The Netherlands dealt the most ecstasy with 28 per cent of the market, Australia sold 9 per cent
- The UK sold the most cocaine, followed by the US
- The US sold 47 per cent of methamphetamine, followed by Australia on 27 per cent
When you think of a drug deal you might imagine meeting a shady character in an alley or a shopping centre car park.
The new research maps out which countries are the big buyers and sellers of narcotics in this shadowy part of the internet.
The data was collected over a single month and looked at countries with the largest involvement in the dark net drugs trade.
Research author Associate Professor James Martin from Swinburne University says the number of deals are in the tens of thousands, with the majority taking place in the United States.
But further scrutiny of the numbers reveals interesting per capita figures, he says.
Where are people buying and selling drugs? Increasingly on the dark net, rather than alleys and car parks. (Giulio Saggin, file photo: ABC News)
“Australia emerges as the second highest concentration of dark net drug dealers per capita just after the Netherlands.”
Dr Martin says most of the trading done by Australian dark net drug dealers is domestically concentrated, similar to the US.
“And that’s not surprising in some senses,” he said.
“Our drugs tend to be quite expensive in the international sense, so they’re not really competitive when we look at it compared to Europe or the United States.”
He said a more surprising find was the large proportion of methamphetamine deals.
“Despite what we see in the news about an epidemic, there’s not really that many ice users in the country,” Dr Martin said.
“So I think the very large portions that we see of the darknet methamphetamine trade concentrated in Australia really reflects the relative lack of popularity of that drug in Europe and places like that.”
Is it a risky business?
Shipping drugs internationally from Australia doesn’t carry as much risk as you would think, Dr Martin says.
“Certainly the Australian Border Force has created a perception that they’re very good at intercepting drugs going in and out of the country,” he said.
“But we know from looking at the feedback on these sites, and also talking to drug dealers, and people who purchase drugs online, that the vast majority of the deals go through with relative ease.”
The Australian Federal Police says it is aware of illicit trading on the dark web, but Dr Martin says it’s a hard thing to police. (Supplied: AFP National Media)
In a statement, the Australian Federal Police says it is aware of illicit trading on the dark web and is working with its partners to combat all forms of technology-enabled crime.
Dr Martin says darknet trading is very difficult to police, but it’s not all bad news for law enforcement.
“While it sounds scary, the dark net drug trade actually removes a lot of the street dealing that we see, so removes the potential for violence to take place,” he said.
“Also, we know that drugs sold on the dark net tend to be better quality and less adulterated than drugs that are traded on the street as well.”