The End of the Road - The notorious Silk Road seized and its founder arrested

  • Silk Road

The notorious Silk Road website has been shut down by federal authorities in the US and the alleged founder of the site has been arrested.

For those unfamiliar with the site, it was a drugs marketplace buried in the darkweb and accessible only through ever shifting addresses of seemingly random letters and numbers rather than through conventional means. Sellers would put drugs up for sale and arrange international shipping in ingeniously discreet ways, while buyers could rate and review the sellers. Consequently, a global trade in very high quality drugs flourished with all transactions being made in bitcoins.

The Silk Road became a target perhaps less through any actual harm it was doing - by its very nature it was used by consenting adults who were savvy enough to find the site in the first place – but largely because of the subversion implicit in its peer to peer nature and the fact that it was operating outside any national or international law. It was regulated by its users and was an extraordinarily inventive expression of a ‘free market global economy’.

US authorities have arrested Ross William Ulbricht, 29, alleged to be the owner and operator of the site and to be the infamous ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ – the name behind the Silk Road. Agents also ‘seized’ 26,000 Bitcoins, worth around $3.6m. Conclusions may or may not be drawn about an attack on the Bitcoin currency in general.

A 39-page criminal complaint against Ulbricht alleges he “deliberately set out to establish an online criminal marketplace outside the reach of law enforcement or governmental regulation”.

The Silk Road was apparently “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the internet today”. The complaint says it “sought to make conducting illegal transactions on the Internet as easy and frictionless as shopping online”.

Just in case anyone felt that users of the Silk Road were minding their own business and the FBI might have better things to do, federal authorities have thrown in a lurid affidavit claiming Ulbricht "solicited a Silk Road user to execute a murder-for-hire of another Silk Road user who was threatening to release the identities of thousands of users of the site." There is no actual record of any such murder in the district it was alleged to have occurred in and the image of Ulbricht that emerges from other sources is sharply at odds with the accusation.

Whatever one’s opinion on drugs, the war on drugs, the criminality that relies on prohibition for its lifeblood and the moral values of a site like the Silk Road, an extraordinary experiment in global subculture, peer to peer economics and self regulating systems is seemingly at an end.

Written by Cyrus Bozorgmehr - Google+ Profile - More articles by Cyrus Bozorgmehr

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