A replication and methodological critique of the study 'Evaluating drug trafficking on the Tor Network'


The development of cryptomarkets has gained increasing attention from academics, including growing scientific literature on the distribution of illegal goods using cryptomarkets. Dolliver’s 2015 article ‘Evaluating drug trafficking on the Tor Network: Silk Road 2, the Sequel’ addresses this theme by evaluating drug trafficking on one of the most well-known cryptomarkets, Silk Road 2.0. The research on cryptomarkets in general, particularly in Dolliver’s article, poses a number of new questions for methodologies. This commentary is structured around a replication of Dolliver’s original study. The replication study is not based on Dolliver’s original dataset, but on a second dataset collected applying the same methodology. We have found that the results produced by Dolliver differ greatly from our replicated study. While a margin of error is to be expected, the inconsistencies we found are too great to attribute to anything other than methodological issues. The analysis and conclusions drawn from studies using these methods are promising and insightful. However, based on the replication of Dolliver’s study, we suggest that researchers using these methodologies consider and that datasets be made available for other researchers, and that methodology and dataset metrics (e.g. number of downloaded pages, error logs) are described thoroughly in the context of web-o-metrics and web crawling.

In International Journal of Drug Policy.