Drugs and New Technologies Issue 6, March 2016
The Drugs and New Technologies project aims to investigate drug marketplaces online and in other emerging technologies. It aims to assess and quantify the online availability of drugs, including both traditional and emerging substances. It also aims to monitor new drugs as they emerge, as well as internet forum discussion of these drugs. Findings are then placed within the context of other available indicators, such as the Ecstasy and related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS), to assess the impact of online availability on the Australian drug market.
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The DNeT project aims to:
- Provide a timely and accurate description of online availability of illicit and emerging substances
- Quantify the extent and diversity of this availability across multiple online platforms
- Contextualise online marketplaces within the greater Australian and international drug markets
Design and Method
DNeT currently consists of regularly accessing online marketplaces and quantifying the range of substances available, as well as the price of common quantities of illicit substances and the countries of origin of retailers. The project also accesses online forums discussing illicit and emerging substances and monitors discussions for mentions of adverse health effects related to their use. This data is collected over time and assessed for changes that may arise due to policy and legislation changes, as well as high profile media stories involving emerging substances and online marketplaces.
Monitoring of online marketplaces was consistent through 2016. Following the FBI seizure and closure of the largest dark web marketplace, the Silk Road, in October 2013, monitoring turned to three alternate marketplaces, and frequency of monitoring was increased to weekly. In addition to this, the emergence of new marketplaces was also tracked, so that these marketplaces may similarly be monitored as they appear. Currently, six different active dark web marketplaces are actively monitored weekly for changes in the availability of illicit and emerging substances.
Following the seizure and closure of Silk Road 2.0 and a range of other darkweb markets in November 2014, DNeT monitoring has continued to focus on the emergence of new markets, and the impact that law enforcement activities have had on trading on these markets. Currently, fifteen active dark web marketplaces are monitored weekly for changes in the availability of illicit and emerging substances, as well as the number of retailers operating on each marketplace. Analysis of discussion forums is in progress.
Two bulletins detailing findings are released each year along with other ongoing publications in academic journals. All publications can be found under Reports.
Australian Government Department of Health