Covid Crisis Lab - Seminar Series - Andrea Baronchelli

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COVID CRISIS LAB Seminar Series 2024 — Spring edition

Andrea Baronchelli, “Dark web marketplaces during COVID-19: a tale of resilience and strategic response” 



This talk explores how dark web marketplaces (DWMs) responded to COVID-19 and discusses the resilience of the DWM ecosystem. The first part considers market listings related to COVID-19 products. The analysis reveals how DWMs respond to economic shortages, public attention, and misinformation. The second part analyses the resilience of the DWM ecosystem despite individual market weaknesses. By analyzing 150 million Bitcoin transactions involving DWMs and focusing on 24 episodes of unexpected marketplace closures, it shows how coordinated user migrations ensure systemic resilience. Finally, the talk discusses the shift in DWMs from a traditional centralized market-user model to a 'dating app' model where trading pairs meet to continue their exchanges outside of the marketplace, which confers further resilience to the system.


Andrea Baronchelli is a Professor of Complexity Science at City, University of London, and the Token Economy theme lead at The Alan Turing Institute in London (UK). A physicist by background, his research focuses on human behaviour and self-organisation in decentralised socio-technical systems. He employs mathematical modelling, data science, and lab experiments to study topics such as coordination in social networks, cryptocurrency ecosystems, information diffusion, social polarisation, and the dynamics of collective behaviour tipping points.


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Dark web marketplaces during COVID-19: a tale of resilience and strategic response