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Digital Trust and Security Seminar Series: Silje Anderdal Bakken

Online drug markets: How is the digitalisation of social interaction changing illegal markets?


  • Registration & refreshments
  • Chair opening & welcome
  • Presentation: Online drug markets: How is the digitalisation of social interaction changing illegal markets?
  • Q&A
  • Event close by chair
  • Networking

Summary: A big part of today’s everyday social interaction takes place on various social media platforms. This could be conversations with family members or friends to ‘liking’ or commenting strangers’ posts to contacting public offices through chats. It could also be communication concerning illegal or deviant activities, such as selling and buying illegal drugs. Worldwide, mainstream social media platforms are increasingly being used to sell illegal drugs. This could be openly on public platforms like Instagram and Facebook or more privately on Snapchat and Wickr.

This presentation focuses on illegal drug markets on social media and ways these new forms of interacting changes illegal markets. Some of the topics that will be discussed is how the selling of illegal drugs in online platforms is formed by the online context, as well as by locally bounded factors. 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. On one side, platform layouts dictate sellers’ self-presentations and marketing options, such as the use of visual and textual communication. While, on the other, 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, which further opens the way for new actors to enter these illegal markets, without the right street culture or social network.

The presentation is based on Silje’s Ph.D. project “Drug dealing on social media: A sociological study of risk, trust, and capital in illegal drug markets” from 2018-2022, which was based on a cross-national study in the Nordic countries, called Nordic Drug Dealing on Social Media (NDDSM). The data consists of three months of social media ethnography and 106 semi-structured qualitative interviews with drug market participants (sellers and buyers).

Biography: Silje Anderdal Bakken is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo. Her main research interests are situated within the field of digital criminology. In her PhD, Silje explored through qualitative observations and interviews how illegal drugs are sold digitally (mainly on social media and darknet). Her focus was on how people within these illegal markets interact and behave, and how this is now taking place digitally. In her postdoctoral project she is part of the ERC-project "Digital DNA" led by Mareile Kaufmann that looks at the changing relationships between technology, DNA and evidence. Here her focus will be 1) the consumerization of DNA and its relationship to DNA as police evidence, and 2) possible technological futures of DNA as evidence and what role this has on today’s development of the field.

29 February 2024 13:45 - 15:45
The University of Manchester
M13 9PL
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