Our first report published on EPJ Data Science: “Dark Web Marketplaces and COVID-19: before the vaccine”

Our first report on how Dark Web Marketplaces reacted to the pandemic has just been published on EPJ Data Science and it is featured on Daily Mail. It covers the period preceding the official approval of the first COVID-19 vaccines.

We studied 851,199 listings extracted from 30 DWMs between January 1, 2020 and November 16, 2020. We identify 788 COVID-19 specific listings that range from protective masks to hydroxychloroquine medicine. These listings were observed 9,464 times during this period, allowing us to investigate their temporal evolution. We compare this COVID-19 related shadow economy with public attention measured through Twitter posts (tweets) and Wikipedia page visits. Finally, we inspect listings that mentioned delays in shipping or sales because of COVID-19.

We found that DWMs promptly respond to signals coming from the traditional economy, increasing or decreasing the supply of goods according to their availability on regulated markets. For example, protective masks appeared in DWMs in March, when they were in short supply in the regulated economy, and became more scarce on DWMs later on when masks could be easily bought in shops. We also found that DWMs swiftly react to changes in public attention as measured through Twitter posts and Wikipedia page views. Finally, we registered spikes in the number of listings mentioning COVID-19 in correspondence with lockdown measures in March and October.

Our results are of interest to different audiences: the academic community may further explore the behaviour of DWMs in relation to social changes. Policy makers can better understand the effects that new legislation have in the shadow economy. Practitioners may learn that DWMs posit additional threats to public health. A finding especially important due to the production of COVID-19 vaccines.

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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

Fri Jan 29 2021




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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.