The drug trade in Finland, as elsewhere, has moved in large part online in recent years, particularly to the so-called dark web, where buyers and sellers of illicit substances can remain anonymous.
Now, one addiction charity plans to update its methods and start operating in the same secret online circles as the people they're trying to help.
Now Finland’s A-Clinic Foundation, who work to provide addiction support and prevention, are bringing their anti-drug efforts onto the Tor network, with the help of some IT specialists.
The two-year Muunto (Transformation) project aims to reduce drug harm through the use of anonymous and confidential e-services, including a database of substances circulating online. Workers are also exploring the viability of founding Finland’s first anonymous laboratory testing service for new psychoactive substances.
Project coordinator Miina Kajos says the aim in the first instance is to get understanding direct from the people who are buying drugs online, and the dealers who sell there.
The encrypted Tor network, where many of today’s drug dealers operate, makes it almost impossible to track down the identity of people trading in illegal substances.
Kajos says her staff have already successfully made contact with some dealers online, and she says the information will help identify patterns of drug abuse and ways of addressing it.
“Our presence online is in no way paternalistic or keeping watch,” Kajos said. “As far as possible we try and approach people as equals, and as a result we’ve had very positive interactions so far,” she said.