3. Illegal drug markets on social media: Locally bound actors on global platforms
Worldwide, mainstream social media platforms are increasingly being used to sell illegal drugs. The aim of this study is to explore how the selling of illegal drugs in online platforms is formed by the online context, as well as by locally-bounded factors
A cross-national study in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) called Nordic Drug Dealing on Social Media (NDDSM), 2017-2018. The data consists of three months of social media ethnography and 106 semi-structured qualitative interviews with drug market participants (sellers and buyers).
Platform layouts dictate sellers’ self-presentations and marketing options, while locally based risk perceptions and cultural influences shape sellers’ online behaviours like risk taking and who to trust. The use of digital communication platforms also changes illegal drug markets more broadly by introducing new sets of skills.
Social media drug dealing is shaped by both the digital context and the physical, local contours of the market. Despite social media platforms being global – there are important local differences in the ways drug dealing interactions takes place on these. Also, the use of digital communication platforms opens the way for new actors to enter these illegal markets, without the right street culture or social network.