Do ‘darknet’ drug markets make the bad guys less bad?
While we have witnessed some important changes in dominant political and policy discourses around drug users in recent decades – as evidenced for example in the growth of harm reduction approaches – the myths, stereotypes and moral condemnation of drug suppliers have remained mostly unchallenged. Cryptomarkets – aka ‘darknet’ drug markets – are online marketplaces that allow drug sellers and buyers to transact anonymously, yet in plain sight of law enforcement. To the extent that drug cryptomarkets are designed – and actually function – as self-regulating eco-systems, we are encouraged to revisit policies and practices that cast drug supply activity as morally reprehensible and exclusively harm-producing; indeed, as the antecedent and eradicable cause of the drug problem.
Judith Aldridge is Professor of Criminology in the School of Law at the University of Manchester in the UK. National and global drug policy reform has motivated her research for over two decades into drug use and drug markets. In recent years, her research has focussed on how drug markets have been facilitated by technological developments supporting anonymous internet activities.