Sellers' risk perceptions in public and private social media drug markets

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Introduction

From the early use of pagers and cellular phones to the darknet and smartphones, technological developments have facilitated drug deals in various ways, especially by altering time and space boundaries. Traditional drug market literature theorises about how physical markets, within which sellers act according to their risk perceptions and motivation, are led by supply, demand, and enforcement. However, there is an almost absolute research gap in understanding how this relates to digital markets and social media markets in particular. It is expected that the plasticity of technology makes digital markets highly mouldable so that the sellers are able to shape markets according to their use.


Research aim

The aim of the study is to describe and understand drug dealing on social media within the structure of existing markets. We aim to do so by analysing how drug sellers’ risk perceptions and motivations form and are formed by social media technology.

Methods

We conducted a three-month digital ethnographic study on Facebook and Instagram in the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), as well as 107 semi-structured qualitative interviews with sellers (2/3 of the sample) and buyers (1/3 of the sample) using online markets within the same countries.


Results

Drug dealing on social media varies according to the structure of the chosen media and users’ risk perceptions and motivations. Two market forms are suggested: 1) public digital markets (e.g., Facebook groups and Instagram) allow sellers to expand their customer lists, but the risk is quite high, while 2) private digital markets are based on one-on-one communication and demand greater knowledge but are perceived as more secure. Sellers choose which media to use and how to use them based on perceived risk and, therefore, have a significant impact on the formation of social media drug markets.
Original languageDanish
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
ISSN0955-3959
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 215357554