Cryptomarkets: A Research Companion

ISBN: 978-1-83867-033-7, eISBN: 978-1-83867-030-6

Publication date: 25 October 2019


Martin, J., Cunliffe, J. and Munksgaard, R. (2019), "Prelims", Cryptomarkets: A Research Companion (Emerald Studies In Digital Crime, Technology and Social Harms), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xv.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 James Martin, Jack Cunliffe and Rasmus Munksgaard

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Series Editors

James Martin, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Asher Flynn, School of Social Sciences, Monash University, Australia

Over the past two decades, digital technologies have come to permeate ever more aspects of contemporary life. This trend looks set to continue and has profound implications for the social sciences, particularly criminology, with technology-facilitated offences now arguably constituting the most dynamic and rapidly growing area of contemporary crime. Despite this development, the discipline of criminology has been slow to embrace the critical study of technology-facilitated offences and social harms, with most research conducted in this area still informed by a relatively narrow range of cybersecurity and applied criminological perspectives.

Emerald Studies in Digital Crime, Technology and Social Harms is part of a new movement within criminology and related disciplines to broaden this narrow focus and engage critically with new trends in technology-facilitated offending and victimisation. The book series uses a combination of critical criminological, socio-legal and sociological perspectives to consider a wide range of technology-facilitated offences and harmful social practices, ranging from digital surveillance, cyber-bullying and image-based sexual abuse through to global darknet drug trading.

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Asia Pacific

  • Professor Mark Andrejevic, Monash University, Australia

  • Professor Rod Broadhurst, Australian National University, Australia

  • Dr Akane Kanai, Monash University, Australia

  • Dr Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

  • Dr Brady Robards, Monash University, Australia

  • Dr Campbell Wilson, Monash University, Australia


  • Professor Ross Coomber, University of Liverpool, UK

  • Dr Rutger Leukfeldt, Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement, Netherlands

  • Dr Adrian Scott, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

  • Professor Majid Yar, Lancaster University, UK

North America

  • Associate Professor Michael Adorjan, University of Calgary, Canada

  • Professor Walter DeKeseredy, West Virginia University, USA

  • Professor Benoît Dupont, University of Montreal, Canada

  • Associate Professor David Maimon, Georgia State University, USA

  • Assistant Professor James Popham, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

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United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2019

Copyright © 2019 James Martin, Jack Cunliffe and Rasmus Munksgaard. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing.

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No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. No responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of information contained in the text, illustrations or advertisements. The opinions expressed in these chapters are not necessarily those of the Author or the publisher.

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A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-83867-033-7 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-030-6 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-83867-032-0 (Epub)

Dedication Page

To the cryptomarket community.


List of Figures and Tables xiii
Acknowledgements xv
Introduction 1
1. A Modern-day History of Cryptomarkets 5
 1.1 Overview 5
 1.2 The ‘Calm’, or Anarchy, before the Storm 7
 1.3 Silk Road Marketplace – A Paradigm Change 10
  1.3.1 An Illegal Platform Economy 11
  1.3.2 Encryption and Anonymity 12
  1.3.3 Introducing Governance: Dispute Resolution and Escrow 15
  1.3.4 Politics, Community and Book Clubs 17
  1.3.5 ‘This Hidden Site Has Been Seized’ 18
 1.4 Downfall of a Monopoly 19
  1.4.1 Hacks, Scams and Chaos 20
  1.4.2 Fraudsters and Politics 24
  1.4.3 First as Tragedy, then as Farce (with Minor Adjustments) 25
 1.5 Onymous and Onwards 26
  1.5.1 Centralisation 27
  1.5.2 Localisation 29
  1.5.3 Increasing and Novel External Action 30
 1.6 Conclusion 32
2. The Current State of the Cryptomarket Trade 35
 2.1 The State of Cryptomarkets 35
  2.1.1 Overall Market Size and Growth 35
  2.1.2 Cryptomarket Lifecycle 38
  2.1.3 Geographical Distribution and Regional Clustering 44
  2.1.4 Competition, Reputation and Sales 50
 2.2 What Is, and Is Not, on Cryptomarkets? 52
  2.2.1 Market Composition, Demand and Supply 52
  2.2.2 Non-drug Products 56
  2.2.3 Weapons 57
  2.2.4 Prohibited Goods and Services 60
 2.3 Impact on Conventional Drug Distribution Networks 64
 2.4 Harm Reduction 66
 2.5 Concluding Remarks 72
3. Cryptomarket Research Methods, Ethics and Epistemologies 75
 3.1 Scope of the Chapter 75
 3.2 The Cryptomarket Environment 77
 3.3 Methods and Approaches Used To-date 81
  3.3.1 Qualitative Approaches 83
  3.3.2 Survey Data 85
  3.3.3 Digital Trace, from the Markets 88
  3.3.4 Digital Trace, from Elsewhere 95
  3.3.5 Test Buys 97
 3.4 Methodological Limitations and Implications 99
  3.4.1 Current Limitations and Other Possible Methods 99
  3.4.2 Importance of Interdisciplinary Work and Theory 104
  3.4.3 The Ever-present Issue of Ethics (and Law Enforcement) 106
 3.5 Methodological Summary 110
4. Charting the Unknown and Future Directions 115
 4.1 Scope 115
 4.2 Where to Now? 116
  4.2.1 Continued Growth and Platform Stability 116
  4.2.2 Increasing Localisation 117
  4.2.3 A Natural Limit? 118
  4.2.4 Crackdowns, Volatility and External Shocks 119
  4.2.5 Increasing Intersection with Other Drug Markets 121
  4.2.6 Increased Offending Due to Exposure to Other Illicit Goods and Services 123
  4.2.7 Gentrification 124
  4.2.8 Harm Reduction 127
  4.2.9 A Summary of Predictions 127
 4.3 Concluding Remarks 129
Bibliography 131
Index 161

List of Figures and Tables


Fig. 1.1 The Silk Road Seizure Banner which Greeted Visitors after 2 October 2013 19
Fig. 3.1 Two Landing Pages, One from Dream Market in October 2017 and One from Black Bank in May 2015 79
Fig. 3.2 Number of Publications and Cumulative Number of Citations from Web of Science/Scopus, 2013 to 2018 (as at 25 March 2019) 82
Fig. 4.1 US Dollar Value of Bitcoin, July 2016 to July 2019 120


Table 2.1 Cryptomarket Drug Composition from Soska and Christin (2015). 54


This book was written with the generous contribution of a host of people whose insights, support and feedback are most gratefully appreciated. In particular, we would like to acknowledge and thank Jules Wilan and the rest of the publishing team at Emerald, Judith Aldridge, David Décary-Hétu, Nicholas Christin, Caleb and Gwern Branwen. Penultimately, we wish to thank the friends, families and loved ones of each of us for their support, patience and all of the other day-to-day acts of kindness upon which every author ultimately depends. Lastly, we wish to thank each of those members of the academy comprising the cryptomarket research community. This book is a reflection of your work more than ours and would not have been possible without you.