In 2011, the first darknet market or cryptomarket for illegal drugs (Silk Road) began trading. It marked a key innovation in digitally mediated drug trading, where buyers could purchase illegal drugs, including psychedelics, from an array of vendors with quality rankings, using anonymised browsers and currencies. Completing a purchase on a darknet market requires a high level of technical expertise. Many people are deterred by these requirements - and instead either stick to in-person exchanges, or utilise other digitally mediated channels including social media / messaging apps, which lack the security and quality checking features of cryptomarkets.
In this presentation I will introduce a new hybrid form of digital market, called Televend, which describes itself as "a direct deal platform which uses bots to interface with customers via a shop front inside the app and a Tor based .onion vendor panel for vendors to manage orders and customers, completely automated". Informed by observations and a specialist module of Global Drug Survey (data collected Dec 2020 - Mar 2021), I will address the following questions in this presentation: how does Televend work, who uses Televend compared with other sourcing methods, how does the use of different distribution methods intersect, and how do Televend users compare its use with darknet markets and social media/encrypted app trading in terms of risks and benefits. I will also reflect more broadly on the ongoing innovations in privacy and communication technologies, as relevant to the broader psychedelic community.
Dr Monica Barratt is a Vice-Chancellor Senior Research Fellow in the Social and Global Studies Centre at RMIT University. She is currently undertaking a four-year program of research investigating psychoactive drug use in digital society, with topics of interest including digital drug trading, digitally enabled communities, legislative responses to new or novel substances, translation of police data into public health alerts, drug checking and festival harm reduction, drug checking in the community, and microdosing. Monica has published over 70 academic research papers and attracted over $4M competitive funding in her almost 20-year career.
She is the Australian lead for the Global Drug Survey and serves as an Editor for leading journals in the drugs field: International Journal of Drug Policy and Drug and Alcohol Review. Monica also volunteers at Bluelight.org, a global drug harm reduction community recently celebrating 20 years, and for The Loop Australia, a not-for-profit organisation started in 2018 with the goal of conducting drug checking interventions both at festivals and in the community. Monica has attended and contributed to EGA since the mid 2000s, and she continues to advocate for recognition of the benefits and pleasures of psychoactive substance use in context with known risks, many of which arise from prohibition regimes themselves.