Like LinkedIn for drug users
THE drug trade has really shaken off its shackles, hasn't it?
Once upon a time it was all about dodgy characters on dark corners. Now there is an online professional network called LeafedIn. It's basically a directory of drug sellers and buyers.
The site - based in California, where marijuana is legal - asks users to confirm they are obeying local laws.
Nevertheless, the local listings in Australia suggest some users may not feel duty bound to adhere to the site's terms and conditions.
A few years ago, people were shocked to discover drugs were being sold on the darknet. Remember the Silk Road? That was a marketplace on the hidden internet that got a lot of attention. But now it seems drugs can be bought and sold right here on the regular world wide web.
In fact, the darknet has ceased to be so much of a refuge for the drug trade.
Earlier this month, two of the major darknet marketplaces were closed after a major global operation. AlphaBay and Hansa were infiltrated by the FBI and Europol and then shut down.
A Canadian national living in Thailand, 25 year old Alexandre Cazes, was arrested after police discovered he had used his personal email address for matters related to the operations of Alpha Bay. He was found dead in a Thai jail cell shortly afterwards.
Within Hansa, data on users was collected under Dutch judicial authority, allowing police to monitor the activity of users. Whether this data will lead to arrests of drug buyers and sellers remains to be seen, given many will have used encryption.
But, says, Dr Monica Barratt of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, chances are that darknet markets will continue.
"As with previous times this has happened the odds are over the next few week people will sort themselves out, people will go to another market and that one will increase," Dr Barratt said.
So, with the darknet fracturing yet again some retail drug dealers are moving where you'd least expect them - the regular internet. Snapchat, Google Groups and Reddit have all recently been implicated.
Unlike the darknet, many of these sites don't deliberately offer a full service drug-dealing operation. The darknet allowed the whole trade to take place in one fell swoop. On the regular internet, dealers seem more likely to place subtle advertisements that direct buyers to private messaging services like Wickr, where details can be sorted out.
Australian police claim they are busy busting online drug dealers.
"If you are conducting criminal activity within these forums you will be caught and charged," says Victoria Police Superintendent Patrick Boyle, head of the of the Finance and Cybercrime Division.
"Police have conducted a number of investigations which have resulted in successful prosecutions from information gathered through these websites and these investigations have involved illicit goods of varying types, quantities and values … Police are actively working with online services to shut down pages that advertise illegal goods including illicit drugs."
Despite these efforts ads for drugs are still online. Stories of Craigslist being used to sell drugs have been in the press for years. Nevertheless on Friday, anyone could find listings on Craigslist that were (or at least strongly resembled) drug advertisements.