The shift of DarkNet illegal drug trade preferences in cryptocurrency: The question of traceability and deterrence

Katsiaryna Bahamazava*, Rohan Nanda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


DarkNet markets (DNMs) are flourishing, exploiting cryptocurrencies' pseudo-anonymity feature. To fight the illegal drug trade, it is necessary to understand the factors influencing choices made by DNM consumers. ClearNet forums facilitate interactions among new and experienced DarkNet users, thus serving as an ideal source for investigation and research. The methodology of temporal topic models and sentiment analysis were applied to the ClearNet forum data to explore DNM new drug users’ behavior over time. We inspected the development of major topics from the forum over eight years (2012–19) period to study the evolution in motivations and challenges faced by DNM users. The extracted temporal topic models successfully captured the apparent dynamics of critical events in the crypto world, showing the shift from Bitcoin to Monero. Our analysis demonstrates that the Bitcoin traceability announcement (made public in 2015) did not have a deterrent effect on the usage of Bitcoin, and this declaration instead acted as an advertisement for DNMs. Drug buyers used Bitcoin despite its traceability until Monero became untraceable in 2017 due to its privacy update.
Original languageEnglish
Article number301377
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalForensic Science International: Digital Investigation
Early online dateMar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • DarkNet markets
  • Temporal topic modeling
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Natural language processing
  • Drugs
  • Bitcoin
  • Monero
  • DNM

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