The ‘deep web’ is a collection of databases and web services that are not accessible using traditional search engines or browser methods. The ‘dark web’ is an encrypted subset of the deep web that can be accessed by using a Tor server. On the dark web, illegal services or goods (such as drugs) can be purchased and sold anonymously using online currencies such as Bitcoin. Many find that buying illegal drugs online is a far safer purchasing experience than the traditional method of buying them off the street.
For many people, buying illegal drugs is a scary experience. Whether it’s getting in the back of a car for a roadside drop-off, finding a nice secluded alleyway, or going to some guy’s house who you’re still not convinced is really named ‘Rusty’, there is always the chance that things could go sour. With no Ombudsman or guarantees under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, there is no legal recourse available to you if you are given a poor quality product, bad customer service or your cocaine is cut with laxatives and veterinary worming tablets.
For many first time buyers this experience can be traumatic, particularly if they have no idea who the dealer is. It is also likely that the buyer will have no information about whether what they are buying is legitimate or mixed with cutting agents.
Drug dealers at clubs, raves and festivals are under an even lesser obligation to provide quality control for the products they sell. There is no (business-driven) need for them to supply their one-time buyers with top-quality (or even safe) products when they’re unlikely to ever meet again. This is due to the relative anonymity of this type of dealing.
You may be thinking, ‘surely the anonymity of the dark web has the same issues, if not worse?’ Although it is true that both parties involved in a dark web transaction do not know each other, the ‘TripAdvisor phenomenon’ creates accountability for faulty or defective products and poor customer service.
For example, if multiple online merchants are selling Ecstasy pills, the rating and review systems of dark web markets, similar to those of websites like Amazon and TripAdvisor, ensure that the best quality pills will receive the highest user scores. Many of these reviews will also contain ‘trip-experiences’ to allow prospective buyers to hear first-hand accounts of people who have actually used the products. There’s always the possibility that these are fictional or made up by the dealer to better his chances of sales, but if a product has thousands of positive reviews, users can be fairly certain that what they are getting is what they paid for.
This allows those who use drugs to make a more informed choice regarding the quality of the drug they are taking. Additionally, many dark web markets allow consumers to contact the seller directly to ask them specific questions such as potency or chemical formulas.
Also, similar to eBay, buyers can review sellers they purchased from. Therefore, sellers have an incentive to provide good customer service. Cutting your products with rat poison is a very quick way to keep anyone from buying from you in the future, and many sellers give money-back guarantees to customers that find impurities in their products. The drugs found on the dark web may not be ‘safe’ but those verified by other users are more likely to be what they purport to be. This is a vast improvement on the current purity standards of street drugs.
It is well known that traditional street ‘drug deals’ are susceptible to violence, due to the nature of the transaction. A street dealer has a lot of incentives to forcibly take the money from the buyer.
- They are already committing a criminal act (the sale of the drugs), which could amount to a harsher sentence than robbery.
- A case of robbery will never be brought, because the buyer was committing an illegal act and the court will not allow you to rely on an illegal act to bring a claim.
- The dealer knows you have something of value on your person…the cash in which you intend to pay them in exchange for the drugs that they are providing. They can now keep and sell these drugs on to the next buyer (or rob them as well).
However, it is not just the seller of the drugs that is a potential threat to the buyer. As an unregulated product, other sellers or people who use drugs have the same incentives to use force to interrupt a drug deal. A consequence of the lack of legal remedies in these situations is that those that feel that they have been wronged must create remedies outside of the law, which can lead to more violence.
This is another way where the dark web offers a safer retail experience. An online retail space removes the physical interaction between buyer and seller. It is also likely that the seller won’t know the buyer’s name or address (despite being delivered to your door), therefore removing the risk of physical harm or violence from the seller, other sellers or people who take drugs. Rival drug dealers can no longer intercept street deals, instead, they can leave fake one star reviews. This is surely a much more civil (albeit annoying) method of stifling competition.
The dark web offers a safer platform for people who use drugs to make informed decisions about the products they’re buying and removes dangers that accompany the physical act of buying drugs on the street. None of this would be necessary if there was a regulated drug purchasing scheme in the UK but for the time being, this is the safest method available.