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Fair trade cocaine: bad for your nose, better for your conscience?Passetti via Flickr

Would you like to buy some fair trade coke?

Online drugs marketplaces look to tap into their target demographic with promises of ethical sourcing and other PR-savvy techniques

The FBI managed to shut down Silk Road in October 2013, but the darknet drugs market is thriving like never before. And while the darknet has its roots in libertarianism and counterculture, the flourishing online trade built by marketplaces like Agora, Pandora and Silk Road 2.0 has turned to a more overtly corporate infrastructure to shill drugs. Namely, advertising.

The corporate tactics used to entice darknet customers are everywhere. Sample sales, limited-time only offers, customer loyalty bonuses: the methods are endless, and you're just as likely to see these kinds of techniques at DFS buying a sofa as you are ordering Class A drugs online.

Over at The ConversationDrugs on the Dark Net author James Martin notes the rise of PR-savvy drugs marketing. The anonymity of online drug selling means you can't just wipe out your competitors. So some vendors are going as far as promising that their drugs are fair-trade and ethically sourced. One Australian drug vendor even described themselves as "proud financial supporter of WikiLeaks".

Another cocaine seller boasts of never buying coke from cartels or police, but "helping farmers from Peru, Bolivia and some chemistry students in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. We do fair trade!" An opium vendor assured potential buyers that "by purchasing this you are supporting local farmers in the hills of Guatemala and you are not financing violent drug cartels".

This type of advertising cleverly taps into what's perceived to be the online drugs marketplace's target demographic – tech-savvy, politically aware and ethically-minded. These are sellers that know their customers.

Clever! Of course, given that anonymity is the darknet's USP, it's impossible to know whether these claims are true. Still, it's interesting to see cybercriminals adopting the same marketing techniques as Kenco Coffee to entice prospective buyers. 

(h/t Animal New York)