It comes as no surprise that advances made in technology will make changes to the things we do do in our day to day lives. It has made our lives extremely easy – in fact, the internet and various e-commerce portals thrive on our laziness. Groceries arriving at your doorstep at the click of a button, not having to run around to find a taxi but instead getting one right where you’re standing, not having to go to a store to buy clothes any more, and, my personal favourite, getting rid of old things without having to move from your chair.
While companies like Uber and Airbnb are thriving, defying the norms of regular business models, there are services that are unheard of, that are not advertised, but still thrive; they are services that make use of the internet’s expansive range as well as its possible anonymity to carry out business better than than they had been doing otherwise. The services I talk about are not the most legitimate – illegal in most places around the world – and it is the drug trade.
How The Drug Market Capitalised On The Internet
The drug market uses three platforms to market its product: social media, the clearnet, and the darknet. Unlike the darknet, social media and the clearnet do not offer as much anonymity as one would want while dealing with illegal substances; but this has not seemed to stop people from selling their product, and more shockingly, hardly anything has been done. When anonymity becomes a concern, items are usually marketed as they are; white powdery substance, clear liquid, and so on, with a disclaimer that states that the products are not meant for consumption – but who cares! Your orders are usually shipped to you through extremely common courier services (usually DHL or FedEX) but, as you can imagine, authorities seizing products is also something you can expect.
Social media is a platform that prides itself on being far from anonymous, and traffickers are using this to their advantage. WhatsApp and Telegram try to maintain anonymity by means of encryption; so this is almost the go-to for dealers whose numbers pass around by word of mouth. Surprisingly, in China, WeCHat is the app of choice – an app that is far from anonymous, and in fact offers up transcripts of chats for surveillance purposes, as well as location details. But the reason this app has caught on so much is because of one little feature; when you shake your phone, other users of WeChat in close proximity to you also show up. It works well when you’re on the move and need to find the closest supplier to get your fix. Payments are usually made through the app as well. Apps like instagram and tinder, as you can imagine, have provided a more visual means of communication, in terms of product quality and quantity; while the platforms aim to remove such content, they mostly rely on users to report it.
The darknet is a whole other ball game. Ensuring almost complete anonymity, it does strike you with fear in the beginning but, usually, over time you get used to it. Silk Road was one of the biggest drug buying and selling marketplace before the FBI took it down; people assumed nothing of the sort would ever come up again. But much like always, the public seemed to have been in the wrong. With copycat sites as well as new players in the field emerging, the online drug trade has almost tripled in volume.
What’s Next In The World Of Drugs?
With law enforcement already breaking their heads about how to handle the traditional drug trade set up, matters might only get worse with more technological advances. Imagine drones flying to your balcony that deliver your drugs and maybe let you pay with your card as well! The possibilities are endless! With more efficient systems being set up, the drug trade has clearly capitalised on technological advancements made, and they are only going to get better. With the drug traffickers adapting to change, shouldn’t governments and law enforcement agencies adapt to the times as well? Find a way to handle the drug problem, that might not be a problem any more?
Yeah, again, an end to this most pointless War on Drugs that has so boosted the trade in dangerous and illegal substances across the planet, just for starters!