The war on drugs has been of great concern for the past few decades. The world of narcotics works upon the anonymity and global networks of traffickers, who in turn are called drug lords. These drug lords are primarily the kingpin of their trafficking operations and often couple trafficking with other crimes like extortion, murders kidnapping etc. The west was the first to realize the ill effects of drugs in society. Under President Regan the United States took its first steps towards combating drug trafficking.
The United States was terrorized by a Colombian Narco-terrotist named Pablo Escobar in the 1980’s-90’s, he inturn was the worlds first introduction to the extent to which the traffickers work and earn, at a time the Forbes Magzine mentioned that drug traffickers hold prominent ranking in the worlds richest people, Pablo Escobar was once the 3rd riched person in the world. These traffickers primarily established the dedicated narco routes to the United States from South America, where the majority of cultivation and processing of drugs was done. Reagan’s stand against drugs led to the hunting down of Escobar and his associates and also declared a war upon the other cartels involved in drug trafficking. Among these cartels the main ones were from Columbia and Mexico.
The digital age has eased our human efforts and has brought the world closer. This is also seen as an advantage by the Drug lords, as the aspect of anonymity is now stricter than ever. Earlier the traffickers were tracked by their drugs and the money trails, but due to advancements like Web 3.0 and its application like blockchain have made it much easier for traffickers to perform money transactions more anonymously.
Dark net has now become a hub of markets for drug traffickers and users. What earlier used to be done by a peddler is now done over the darknet drug markets. These markets are like e-commerce portals for various types of drugs and narcotics. The Narcotics Control Bureau arrested 22 Indians in connection to their access and trade through the dark net drug markets. Upon investigation and interrogation it was found that these accused had pan India connections and used to order drugs over the dark net and send them across to their customers via courier services. The use of couriers, parcels and postal services to smuggle drugs has gone up significantly in the past two years – 300% in 2020 and 200% in 2019.
Drug trafficking through sea routes in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, estimated to account for around 70% of the total illegal drugs smuggled into India, poses a major challenge for law enforcement agencies, according to the latest annual report of the Narcotics Control Bureau. Among the big drug hauls by Indian agencies is the largest ever, of 2,988 kg of Afghan heroin worth ₹21,000 crore by the Directorate of Revenue and Intelligence (DRI) at Mundra port in September 2021; 303 kg of cocaine in April 2021 by the DRI at Tuticorin port; and 300 kg and 337 kg heroin from two Sri Lankan boats by NCB, in March and April 2021.
Role of Social Media
Social media plays a vital role in the trafficking and indulging people into drugs. The global access to social media platforms makes it easier for people to view videos and posts which encourages or glorifies drug use, these videos are often music videos. Various individuals over the social media platforms have set up accounts under fake names and locations, which deal in selling drugs over popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Various peddlers have created secret chat rooms over messaging platforms like Whatsapp and Telegram, thus casting a net of anonymous cyber networks to keep their activities under radar. As netizens it is our duty to report such accounts and individuals to keep our cyber space secured. Human traffickers and Drug traffickers often have the same modus operandi to lure people into their crimes, they attack upon the individual’s vulnerability and use social engineering to get them to an unknown location and then get them into heinous crimes like drug trafficking, forced prostituion and labor. These people are in turn the victim as they are engaged under fear and this keeps the drug lords anonymous and safe from the law enforcement agencies.
Responsibilities of Netizens & Law Enforcement Agencies
- Operations – The LEA’s needs to work with stakeholders and be engaged in more operations in order to bust bigger and deeper networks of traffickers.
- Training – LEA’s need to engage in capacity building in order to train more personnel about the cyber investigative techniques and Modus Operandi of the criminals,this will result in innovation of investigation techniques the LEA’s globally.
- Global Conferences on Illicit Drugs – Global dialogues, summits and conferences will help in a unified stand against the war on drugs and will allow developing and underdeveloped nations to address their domestic drug trafficking related issues.
- Inter Agency Coordination – Global agencies need to come together and improve coordination in terms of communication, data and tools sharing, assisting in investigations
- Active Reporting Mechanisms – The netizens need to be made aware of the reporting mechanisms over platforms and LEA’s in order to improve civic participation.
- Rewards for Intel – The Civic participation can be increased with incentives like rewards for meaningful information, various victims do not speak up due to harassment, but the anonymity and privacy of any victim should be maintained.
The war on drugs has gone to a new level due to being facilitated by the internet and latest gadgets, but it doesn’t mean that it is lost, with participation by netizens and timely action of the LEA’s will definitely result in eradicating the menace of drug trafficking from pout cyber ecosystem. The netizens have an active role to play and they cannot turn a blind eye now. The ill effects of trafficking from darknet are evident more than ever, thus working towards capacity building and investigation led innovations will be our sword and shield against the drug traffickers.
Author: Mr. Abhishek Singh, Research Associate, CyberPeace Foundation