These are unusual moments for cryptocurrency. While its blood in the markets, it’s business as usual on the dark web, where markets are seeing a stable inflow of transactions. They’re also seeing an inflow of new users as the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic make online commerce the safest way to shop.
Retail Downturn Leaves the High Street Reeling
The economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak are creating major winners and losers. The destiny of air carriers, cruise trip ships, and travel agencies require no explanation, while the retail sector is succumbing to the pressure the virus is exerting on everything. All nonessential shops in Italy have been closed, while a broader retail downturn has threatened the closure of one of the U.K.’s largest shopping center owners.
On the web, however, it’s business as usual, save for a few supply chain hiccups. With huge parts of the world in lock-down, customers are remaining at home more and purchasing more products and services to their door – dark web products included. On dark web markets, the coronavirus is becoming treated as both a threat and an opportunity to profit.
Vendors Discuss Coronavirus Effect on Shipping
On dark web forum Dread, a thread entitled “How does the coronavirus outbreak have an impact on marketplace transactions?” prompted one vendor to respond: “Online purchases are going to increase a lot because people will wish to be in their home in quarantine. Therefore postal services will collapse, and delivery times will increase a lot like Christmas.” Some dark web markets users have reported deliveries taking longer than usual to arrive; buyers on the clearnet also have experienced delays as merchants battle to fulfill higher demand from a housebound population.
To stimulate trade, one dark web market vendor has been running a “buy one get one free” offer on digital goods. “Makes sense,” replied the admin of Monopoly marketplace. “Run a coronavirus special that’ll get you some clout.”
Dubious Claims About Corona-Fighting Wares
While the vast majority of market vendors are dutifully shipping orders, a handful has sought to capitalize on the coronavirus panic in less scrupulous ways. On White House Marketplace, one vendor is listing THC capsules with the strap-line “Protect yourself from the coronavirus” and the insistence that daily dose will “help your immune system.” On the clearnet, Google has been working to clear coronavirus misinformation, but on the dark web, users must keep their wits about them and exercise their own judgment. No change there.
On Dread, user “covid19mask” is hawking coronavirus face masks for $20 each, payable in bitcoin on Empire Market, but with “free sanitizer.” There appear to be few takers. Other vendors are more worried about leveraging the supply problems caused by the coronavirus. “Presently, all the super-labs are shut down, not able to get the precursor liquid from China required to cook the meth,” explains one crystal meth vendor. “I don’t see this changing until the coronavirus subsides, and China can ship freight normally again. The price has currently quintupled on me to buy here locally in Mexico.”
Are Dark Web Markets Safer Than the Streets?
Supporters of dark web markets are prone to emphasizing the harm reduction benefits of using dark web markets over street dealers. Like all forms of physical contact to fall out of favor, and people self-isolate, the greatest harm reduction the dark web may offer is in helping to contain the coronavirus spread. However, dark web markets stay susceptible to greater macro trends.
With all nonessential travel between the United States and European countries effectively stopped, and entire regions on lockdown, worldwide, dark web deliveries have taken a hit. Therefore to have the profits of vendors with crypto locked into escrow from when BTC was trading 25% higher. For the most part, the economic effects of the coronavirus have been positive on dark web markets, but the global logistics industry is highly vulnerable to further quarantine steps. A rising infection rate, coupled with extraordinary stress on the postal service, could find eCommerce crippled – the dark web included.