We’re at Manchester Digital Laboratory again for the second talk of the year.

This month we have Judith Aldridge (@JudithAAldridge, academiu.edu profile) from Manchester University speaking about her research into the online cryptomarket Silk Road, an international drugs marketplace transacted entirely in bitcoin. This is especially topical as the creator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts, has since been on trial and found guilty of the charges associated with running the site. As of this event announcement, he is awaiting sentencing.

Silk Road (and its successor marketplaces) have often been characterised as an “eBay for drugs”, with customers thought to be drug consumers making personal use-sized purchases. Our research demonstrates that drug dealers sourcing stock online were also likely to have been customers there. We found that a substantial proportion of transactions on Silk Road could be characterised as ‘business-to-business’, with sales in quantities and at prices typical of purchases made by drug dealers sourcing stock. High price-quantity purchases generated at least one third of all revenue generated on this cryptomarket as estimated in September 2013, one week before the FBI shut the site.

We assess how transformative online drugs cryptomarkets might be, considering how international the market was, and the implications of its market location operating to a substantial extent at the wholesale/broker level for conflict, intimidation and violence.

This talk is based on a research paper co-authored by Judith Aldridge and David Décary-Hétu, Not an ‘Ebay for Drugs’: The Cryptomarket ‘Silk Road’ as a Paradigm Shifting Criminal Innovation, combined with some new, as-yet-unpublished analyses as well.

Judith Aldridge is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Manchester. Her research over the last 20 years has centred on drug use, sales and policy, with a more recent focus on “virtual drug markets”, including drug cryptomarkets.

Food & Drink

As always we’ll have sponsored food during the break. Your monthly pizza fix will be provided by one of the Bitcoin-accepting Takeaway.com vendors as usual, and not, alas, from a darknet cryptomarket. Finally we’ll head to the pub! (ie, Common)