The widespread impact of COVID-19 on dark markets

COVID-19 has heavily transformed online commerce on dark markets, causing temporary disruptions of many illicit trades. We monitored the amount of listings mentioning lockdown, delays in shipping, or sales in prices, finding that they sharply increased in conjunction of major global events, such as the beginning of lockdown in Italy, the reaching of one-million infected worldwide, and the slowing down of cases in Europe.

More specifically, lockdown mentions never exceeded 1% and reached their maximum in late April, when many lockdown measures were already adopted and one-million infected surpassed, as illustrated in panel (a). Delay mentions reached their peaks in March, April, and May, after major COVID-19 events, as shown in panel (b). Sales follow a similar pattern but with a first peak corresponding to the New Year (common practice of many legal shops), as displayed in panel (c).

COVID-19 shook the business of many sellers operating on dark markets. Coherently with what we witnessed for many legal shops, sellers of illicit listings acknowledged delays in shipments and offer additional discounts. Will these countermeasures be effective in increasing the overall trading volume of the online shadow economy?

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Want to cite and/or use the information provided in this page? It is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 - please cite our ongoing monitoring effort as follows:

A. Bracci, M. Nadini, M. Aliapoulios, D. McCoy, I. Gray, A. Teytelboym, A. Gallo, A. Baronchelli. Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine. EPJ Data Science 10.1 (2021): 1-26

Tue Nov 03 2020




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The research presented in the website is supported by the "COVID-19: Monitoring the effects of the pandemic on illicit online trade" project funded by the ESRC. Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) unless otherwise specified in single posts.