Shedding Light on the Dark: The Impact of Legal Enforcement on Darknet Transactions
40 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2019
Date Written: September 30, 2019
Darknet markets have been increasingly used for the transaction of illegal products and services in the last decade. In particular, it is estimated that drugs make up two-thirds of darknet market transactions. The growth of illicit transactions on darknet markets have led enforcement agencies to invest greater proportion of time and efforts to monitor and crack down on criminal activities on the darknet websites. Despite the successes in convicting perpetrators, it is unknown whether these policing efforts are truly effective in deterring future darknet transactions, given that the identities of the transacting parties are very well protected by the markets’ features. To this end, this study attempts to empirically evaluate the susceptibility of darknet markets breaking down upon police arrests of dealers and buyers. Using drug review data from a few major darknet markets, we discovered a deterrence impact – the transactions in the targeted country would decrease on the market where arrests occurred. More interestingly, we find that disclosure of the arrests will influence the transactions of vendors not only from the same country but also those from other countries that did not experience any arrest incidents. As the darkweb techniques have led to a considerable proliferation of online drug trading, we believe that study findings that reveal the nature of these illicit markets will have key policy and theoretical implications to law makers, enforcement agencies, and academicians.
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