Silk Road Drug Study

Is the Online Drug Game Making Dealers Less Violent?

Last October, federal agents took down Silk Road, a notorious “eBay of drugs” where one could anonymously buy drugs, pirated content, and identity documents. But drug deals made “in the cloud” may have had a silver lining, according to a new study presented by criminologist David Decary-Hetu and law professor Judith Aldridge. Although previous studies describe Silk Road as a market for individuals who would only purchase for personal use, Aldridge and Decary-Hetu found that a large number of transactions were in fact made by dealers. The professors assert that this “new breed of drug dealer” is “likely to be relatively free from the violence typically associated with traditional drug markets.”

The researchers propose that while “violence was commonly used to gain market share, protect turfs and resolve conflicts, the virtual location and anonymity that the cryptomarket provides reduces or eliminates the need — or even the ability — to resort to violence.” The study also sheds some light on other common misconceptions about Silk Road, one being that it was primarily a market for harder drugs. Instead, the analysis found that “drugs typically associated with drug dependence, harmful use and chaotic lifestyles (heroin, methamphetamine and crack cocaine) do not much appear on Silk Road, and generate very little revenue.”

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