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Constructive activism in the dark web: cryptomarkets and illicit drugs in the digital ‘demimonde’

Maddox, Alexia, Barratt, Monica J., Allen, Matthew and Lenton, Simon 2016, Constructive activism in the dark web: cryptomarkets and illicit drugs in the digital ‘demimonde’, Information, communication & society, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 111-126, doi: 10.1080/1369118x.2015.1093531.

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Title Constructive activism in the dark web: cryptomarkets and illicit drugs in the digital ‘demimonde’
Author(s) Maddox, AlexiaORCID iD for Maddox, Alexia orcid.org/0000-0002-5618-5476
Barratt, Monica J.
Allen, MatthewORCID iD for Allen, Matthew orcid.org/0000-0002-8882-8763
Lenton, Simon
Journal name Information, communication & society
Volume number 19
Issue number 1
Start page 111
End page 126
Total pages 16
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Abingdon, Eng.
Publication date 2016
ISSN 1369-118X
1468-4462
Keyword(s) dark web
online social activism
online community
digital ethnography
e-Commerce
illicit drugs
Summary This paper explores activism enacted through Silk Road, a nowdefunct cryptomarket where illicit drugs were sold in the darkweb. Drawing on a digital ethnography of Silk Road, we developthe notion of constructive activism to extend the lexicon ofconcepts available to discuss forms of online activism. Monitoringof the cryptomarket took place between June 2011 and its closurein October 2013. Just before and after the closure of themarketplace we conducted anonymous online interviews with 17people who reported buying drugs on Silk Road (1.0). Theseinterviews were conducted synchronously and interactivelythrough encrypted instant messaging. Participants discussedharnessing and developing the technological tools needed toaccess Silk Road and engage within the Silk Road community. Forparticipants Silk Road was not just a market for trading drugs: itfacilitated a shared experience of personal freedom within alibertarian philosophical framework, where open discussionsabout stigmatized behaviours were encouraged and supported.Tensions between public activism against drug prohibition andthe need to hide one’s identity as a drug user from public scrutinywere partially resolved through community actions thatinternalized these politics, rather than engaging in forms of onlineactivism that are intended to have real-world political effects.Most aptly described through van de Sande’s (2015) concept ofprefigurative politics, they sought to transform their values intobuilt environments that were designed to socially engineer amore permissive digital reality, which we refer to as constructiveactivism.
Language eng
DOI 10.1080/1369118x.2015.1093531
Field of Research 200199 Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2015, Taylor & Francis
Free to Read? No
Free to Read Start Date 2018-07-01
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30079309

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Communication and Creative Arts
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