Third Eye

Internet has become the new den of illicit drugs

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 00:00 |
Social media. Photo/Courtesy

Simon Mwangi       

The world commemorated  the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26. 

One of the issues that came out during the celebrations  is that there has been increased drug sales through the dark web. 

The details are contained in the World Drug report and they point to a growing area of concern in the fight against drug abuse.

According to the report, from mid 2017 to 2020 the amount of drugs trafficked through the dark web translate to 315 million dollars (Sh40 billion).

This is testament that traffickers are resorting to technology to enhance their activities.

Drugs make up two thirds of all offers on the dark web. Whether heroin, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or cannabis, these intoxicants can often only be found on a single platform. Payment is made with the crypto currency Bitcoin.

Public-private partnerships have become crucial in addressing drug trafficking on the Internet. The drug supply chain now involves Internet service providers, technology companies and shipping and mailing companies.

In September last year, the European police agency Europol and the US Department of Justice announced that international law enforcement agents had carried out 179 search warrants and arrested more than 170 suspects in a coordinated operation targeting “vendors and buyers of illicit goods on the dark web”.

The operation, codenamed DisrupTor, netted some $6.5 million (Sh701.3 million) in cash and virtual currency, as well as weapons and 500kg of drugs such as cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone and methamphetamine.

Originally a niche medium of exchange for the technology community, Bitcoin emerged in 2011 as the currency of choice for drug dealers conducting transactions on a dark-web site known as the Silk Road.

Over the past five years, the combination of an encrypted network hidden from most of the world and a transactional currency that is nearly untraceable by law enforcement officials resulted in a small, but significant, marketplace of illicit vendors selling illegal wares.

Governments need to improve response to drug trafficking on the internet by forging public/private partnerships with internet service providers, technological companies, shipping and mailing companies. 

Illicit or rogue Internet pharmacies are a recognised global public health threat that have been identified as utilising various forms of online marketing and promotion, including social media. 

The theme of this year’s International Day Against Drug Abuse was Share Facts on Drugs, Save Lives. 

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime encourages everyone to share facts on drugs to help save the lives of those caught up in the trap of drugs and illicit trafficking. 

Rising web-based sales could transform global drug use patterns and thus there’s urgent need to control the drug supply chain on the Internet by removing drug adverts and listings and sharing information with law enforcemet.

Additionally, cryptocurrency markets need to be properly regulated even as electronic payments are monitored to detect suspicious transactions and illicit financial flows from drug trafficking. — The writer is manager corporate communications at Nacada  — [email protected]

More on Third Eye