Published on 02 Apr 2020 by Charlie
Drugs are the most popular category of item available to purchase, with cannabis making up the largest category. Stimulants such as methamphetamines and cocaine which are another large section can be found alongside other drugs such as psychedelics, that are also available.
Digital services/goods are the second-largest category consisting of hacked accounts and pirated software for sale. Following this is the guides and tutorials section which makes up nearly 7% of the total listings. These are often banned from marketplaces as they are often a scam or near worthless information being sold to gullible users.
Some items are banned from the market, these include Fentanyl and any items that can cause intentional human harm or distress as well as any sort of child/animal abuse.
At the end of January 2020 users and vendors started reporting issues with withdrawals on Apollon, using forums such as Dread and the hub to spread the word around the community. The two most frequent user allegations are either an exit scam or LE takedown.
A member of the markets support team (/u/sator) claimed there was an issue on the market and that vendor accounts were locked to protect them, mentioning how they will be unlocked once the issue is resolved. However, all support staff were downgraded to member accounts, losing their privileges on the market.
Darknet forums are used to discuss the events and situations that unfold within darknet communities. These are often the places that announcements of marketplace shutdowns are first revealed, either by the market users that can no longer access their markets or the admins that run them.
In the last week out of the 5 main forums that discuss market status’s, Dread had the most content with nearly 60% of the posts coming from that forum.
The layout of Dread utilises “Subdreads” to separate content into specific communities and categories. This allows users to quickly find information relating to one subject as it will be contained within the topics Subdread.
The marketplace Apollon has its own Subdread for example, this is where users can come together to discuss and review the marketplace. This is also where new users can come to ask any questions they may have about the market such as if it’s a scam or how to set up certain features etc. The posting frequency can therefore be used to give an indication of the attention the market is receiving over time as seen in the graph below which shows the average posts to the Apollon Subdread per day.
This graph shows the increasing frequency of posts over time as Apollon market gained more attention as more users learned about the marketplace. The large gap in data that can be seen in late 2019 is most probably due to the extended periods of downtime that Dread suffered, this downtime was mostly blamed due to DDoS attacks although some downtime was for upgrading servers and creating mirrors.
As more and more users report of issues with the market such as vendors being locked out of accounts and users not being able to withdraw their deposited funds, fewer users will use the market and instead resort to other options. This could explain the decline in post counts in early 2020 as it seems like fewer users were interested in using the market.
Another way of measuring the interest in a market is to look at how many times it is mentioned across forums. Taking the data from the past 6 months and recording the moving average to reduce fluctuation it can be seen the market was generally unknown with under 10 mentions a day until late November 2019 when interest suddenly peaked. This was around the time that markets such as Cryptonia and Grey shut down which could explain the sudden jump in interest as users were trying to find a new market to use.
Towards the end of January 2020 seemingly many users had problems with the marketplace, these ranged from users being unable to withdraw deposits and vendors no longer being able to access their accounts. Alongside this, Vendors started reporting that their previously disabled listings had been made active again, tricking users into thinking products that were now unavailable were available to purchase.
This can be seen represented as a huge spike in mentions where from the 28th January there were around 55 mentions per day before peaking at nearly 123 mentions per day just a few days later.
The content of these forums was exported and put through a word analysis software to see in what context each marketplaces name was being used.
As can be seen from the figure, out of the 850 appearances of empire market on forums in the last week only one was followed by the word exit, and when looked into further, it can be seen that the message was likely just a satire/test post. This is in contrast to when the same search for Apollon is done, Just over 25% of the 74 mentions of the Apollon market mentioned exit scamming, suggesting that users are having much more issues than with other markets such as Empire.
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