Almost half of the darknet sites surveyed by the Australian National University do not offer COVID-19 ‘treatments’ or protective equipment. 

Researchers found that eight out of 20 markets do not sell any items related to coronavirus with another nine selling a very limited selection. Just three sites accounted for the vast majority (85%) of all unique items sold.

The study was commissioned by Australian Institute of Criminology and monitored 20  darknet markets on April 3 to conduct a census of COVID-19 related medical products and supplies.

The researchers found 645 listings on sale in exchange for cryptocurrency, including personal protective equipment (PPE), ‘vaccines’, diagnostic equipment, and one even claimed to offer a blood sample from a recovered coronavirus patient. The researchers were not permitted to purchase the item so were unable to assess the authenticity of such items.

Evidence of a darknet conscience?

Titled “Availability of COVID-19 related products on Tor darknet markets” the report stated that “crime follows opportunity and the COVID-19 pandemic offers profiteering arising from shortages and fear”. 

While some were quick to jump on the financial opportunities presented by the pandemic — the products surveyed were valued at $240,000 USD — the fact that almost half were devoid of such listings may suggest some darknet operators have more scruples than is commonly believed.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, study author Professor Roderic Broadhurst speculated on the absence of COVID-19 related products on certain sites:

“Basically different markets view risk differently. Many already ban products like child abuse materials and certain drugs/poisons/etc and so ethics [are] also relevant. Of course some markets have no such scruples and may consider themselves bullet proof.”

Free market on darknet

Of course many darknet markets happily sell drugs, weapons and trade in stolen credit cards and personal information. Some corners of the darknet are worse than others: Cointelegraph recently reported that over $900,000 in Bitcoin (BTC) went to the purchase of child sexual abuse material on the darkent in 2019.