“Drugs? Online? Naaaah surely not”: perceptions of risk and reward amongst darknet drug vendors

A/Prof. James Martin1
1Swinburne University, Hawthorn, Australia

The encrypted darknet is increasingly used as a means by which people buy and sell illicit drugs. This trend is particularly evident in Australia, which has the 2nd highest concentration of online drug vendors per capita of any country. Despite the growing proportion of the global illicit drugs trade that is conducted via the darknet, very little is known about those who use these advanced digital technologies to sell illicit drugs.

This research is intended to help fill this critical gap in knowledge by engaging directly with people who use the darknet to sell illicit drugs. Using data gathered from interviews with online drug vendors conducted through encrypted chat applications, this paper will explore the perceptions of risk and reward of those who sell drugs on the darknet, and how those involved in online drug trading perceive other differences with the conventional street-based drugs trade.


Associate Professor James Martin is Criminology Convener at Swinburne University, and is one of the leading researchers working in the area of cryptomarkets and online drug trading. His book, ‘Drugs on the Darknet: How Cryptomarkets are Transforming the Global Trade in Illicit Drugs’ was the first research monograph published in the world on this topic, and was cited in the trial of Ross Ulbricht, administrator of the infamous cryptomarket, Silk Road.


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