The dark web is often portrayed as a digital wild west, where absolutely anything goes. That just isn't true.
Earlier this month, one dark web marketplace banned sales of fentanyl after a wave of deaths caused by the drug, Deep Dot Web reports.
"Due to recent deaths and the threat to customers' well-being, we've come to the decision that starting today (08/19/2016) we will no longer allow the sale of fentanyl and its related analogues on our market," an announcement from an administrator of the marketplace Darknet Heroes League (DHL) reads.
"We've given all vendors that sell this product a 48 hour notice to remove the product from their listings or possibly lose their ability to vend. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding," the announcement continues. The administrator, who uses the moniker "SeriousSam," writes that, to their knowledge, no sales of fentanyl took place on the market.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid much more powerful than morphine. It can be particularly dangerous as users may overestimate how much to take, or dealers may pedal the drug under the pretense it is something else. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has said the drug was linked to over 700 reported fatal overdoses in late 2013 and 2014, and dozens of deaths have been linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids so far this year.
In May, authorities in Connecticut seized 2.5 kg of fentanyl, which they said originated in China and was sold on dark web marketplaces. Indeed, VICE News found that one particularly prolific dark web dealer had made at least $500,000 from just that drug alone.
There are plenty of fentanyl listings on AlphaBay, likely the largest and most popular market around at the moment. Some even come with "bonus" amounts, including an extra 50 milligrams with every purchase.
Some DHS users responded positively to the news, while others were clearly sceptical about how effective a ban really would be.
"I'm sorry but your [sic] not stopping fentanyl sales on DHL until all listings for Heroin, Opiots [opiates], and Opiods [opioids] are removed as a large percentage of them are now cut with or flat out mislabeled fentanyl. Removing listing for fentanyl as some sort of statement or stance on the subject is like banning lead but continuing to allow gun and ammunition sales," user "herewegoagain" wrote on the site's forum.
This isn't the first time a marketplace has explicitly banned products. Although broader in scope than a specific drug, plenty of markets prohibit the sale of firearms, while others allow only very specific listings, such as a cannabis-only market.