Author: RAND

July 24th, 2017

The potential role of the dark web in facilitating trade in firearms, ammunition and explosives has gained increased public attention following recent terrorist attacks in Europe. However, the hidden and obscure parts of the web are used also by criminals and other types of individuals to procure or sell a wide range of weapons and associated products through cryptomarkets and vendor shops.

While the use of these platforms as facilitators for illicit drug trade has been increasingly researched by a number of academics, little has been done to investigate the role of the dark web in relation to the illegal arms trade. To address this gap, and with a view to supporting policy and decision makers, RAND Europe and the University of Manchester designed this research project to explore the worldwide illegal arms trade, with a focus on the role played by the dark web in fuelling and/or facilitating such trade. The research was funded by the UK Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) under the Transnational Organised Crime theme, which is led by the Economic and Social Research Council on behalf of the Partnership. The overall aim of the study was to estimate the size and scope of the trade in firearms and related products on cryptomarkets, including the number of dark web markets listing firearms and related products and services for sale, and the range and type of firearms and related products advertised and sold on cryptomarkets.

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