Technologies and politics of illicit markets


This project explores how illicit markets evolve in response to developments in digital technologies and the digital society. It examines the cultural economics of online drug dealing, social interactions and trust building among market users, harm reduction practice, and the evolution of technology in these communities. 

Core Methods

We use web scraping, digital ethnography, interviews, qualitative content analysis and natural language processing. 

Methodological Challenges and Questions

Methods are adapted to the questions we are asking. There are a range of challenges:

Assembling timeline and sequential data from multiple sources

Triangulating real world events with changes in the market and communities

Interpreting meaning in online discussions

Protecting the privacy of the communities and individuals we research


Custom web scraper built by Alex Voss (St. Andrews/Harvard) and data generously shared by other teams, for which we are extremely grateful.


Angus BancroftAlex VossTim SquirrellIrene RafanellAndreas ZaunsederIdil GalipKasey Delgado 

Read about this project:

Producing Trust Among Illicit Actors

Research in fractured digital spaces

‘Nice people doing shady things’: Drugs and the morality of exchange in the darknet cryptomarkets