An EU-focused analysis of drug supply on the online anonymous marketplace ecosystem


Online anonymous marketplaces are a relatively recent technological development that enables sellers and buyers to transact online with far stronger anonymity guarantees than on traditional electronic commerce platforms. This has led certain individuals to engage in transactions of illicit or illegal goods.

This reports presents an analysis of the online anonymous marketplace data collected by Soska and Christin [13] over late 2011–early 2015. In this report, we focus on drug supply coming from the European Union. Keeping in mind the limitations inherent to such data collection, we found that, for the period and the marketplaces considered:

  • EU-based suppliers represented a significant share of all drug revenue—approximately 46% of all drug sales.
  • EU-originating drugs primarily came from Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
  • Cocaine and other stimulants altogether represented a majority of all EU-based drug sales.
  • Supply of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) was heavily concentrated in the United Kingdom, and remained very modest with revenues in the order of EUR 3,000 per day at market peak.
  • Marketplace vendors primarily catered in the retail space, but there was evidence of larger (bulk-level) sales. Volume-based discounting tended to occur, albeit at relatively modest levels.
  • Half of the vendors specialized in one type of drug; and half of the drug sellers tended to stick to a given weight echelon.

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Additional information 

This document was prepared by the author for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) under contract CT.16.SAT.0050.1.0. It was commissioned to provide background information to inform and contribute to the drafting of the EMCDDA-Europol joint publication Drugs and the darknet: perspectives for enforcement, research and policy. While the author is professionally affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University, this work was performed as an independent consultant. This paper represents the position of the author, at the time of the writing, and not that of Carnegie Mellon University. Please note that the views, interpretations and conclusions set out in this publication are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the EMCDDA, or its partners, any EU Member State or any agency or institution of the European Union.

28 November 2017
Open access
Geographical scope: 
Nicolas Christin, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
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