The potential for using web surveys to investigate drug sales through cryptomarkets on the darknet

Series type: Insights

Summary

This paper considers two different ways in which web surveys might be used to provide insights concerning those people who purchase drugs on cryptomarkets. First, data from the second wave of the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD) are analysed with a view to identifying differences between respondents who buy drugs on cryptomarkets and those who acquire drugs from other sources (e.g. from a dealer or through sharing with friends). Second, the sampling of web survey respondents on the darknet is discussed based on a sampling strategy tested in Austria, highlighting the challenges and opportunities involved in undertaking survey recruitment on the darknet. This pilot project was undertaken through placing an identical Germanlanguage version of the EWSD questionnaire on a darknet webpage and promoting the survey through various darknet forums and marketplaces. The aims of this paper are twofold. On one hand, it seeks to examine whether the EWSD is able to gather information on the characteristics of people who predominantly buy drugs through cryptomarkets, and, on the other hand, to show how this group of people might be reached to improve their representation in future web surveys for drug data collection.

This publication is published as part of a collection of papers on web surveys: Monitoring drug use in the digital age: studies in web surveys (Insights 26).

Corrigendum note: This publication was updated on 05.09.2022 to correct an error with Figure 2.

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Abstract 

Over the last decade, drug sales through cryptomarkets located on the so-called darknet have received increasing attention. This paper considers how web surveys might be used to provide insights concerning those people who purchase drugs on cryptomarkets. First, it analyses data from the European Web Survey on Drugs (EWSD), with a view to identifying differences between respondents who buy drugs on cryptomarkets and those who acquire drugs from other sources. The study shows that people using cryptomarkets as a usual source of supply were a small group of users in most participating countries, but that proportions differ significantly, and that buyers were more likely to be male and consume more substances on average. Second, the sampling of web survey respondents on the darknet is discussed based on a sampling strategy tested in Austria, highlighting the challenges and opportunities involved in undertaking survey recruitment on the darknet. The paper highlights the importance of building trust, establishing credibility and guaranteeing anonymity, since awareness of privacy issues is seemingly higher among darknet users than surface web users. By doing so, the authors shows how people who buy drugs on cryptomarkets might be reached to improve their representation in future web surveys for drug data collection.

Table of contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Quantitative analyses based on the international data set
  • Qualitative insights from piloting the EWSD on the darknet
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
Publicatio cover
Pub. Author: 
Alexandra Karden and Julian Strizek
Pub. Coauthor: 
EMCDDA
Pub. Volume: 
26
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