Known and loved by its many users and advocates as the Silk Road Marketplace, this underground website dubbed as the ‘amazon.com’ and ‘e-bay’ of illegal drugs has officially been shut down by the FBI. Seizing what is believed to be $3.6 million dollars in bitcoins, a small fraction of their $80 million profits, during the online raid, the FBI also managed to claim hold of the sites ‘digital wallets’, used to store some of the marketplace’s virtual assets. Claiming its name from the ancient trade route connecting Europe, China, and India through the lucrative silk merchandise bought and sold along its length, this site mainly involves the trade of a wide variety of narcotics. Other goods and services were also offered, such as forgeries and the more extreme - assassination services. The alleged founder and owner of the site, Ross William Ulbricht, 29, was arrested by the FBI, convicted of narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering conspiracies. Ulbricht, who goes by his online alias of ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, or DPR, a fictional character from The Princess Bride novel, will soon be heading to New York to face these allegations. Amongst his charges, it was also stated that the website was generating 9.5 million bitcoins in sales, an equivalence of $1.2 billion. Despite this being one of the feds largest online bitcoin confiscations, they were still unable to seize Ulbricht’s own personal stash of $80 million. A bitcoin, being a very volatile currency, requires a personal password for transactions of it to be made; unless Ulbricht hands over his password to the feds, he may still be able to keep a hold of his wealth even if found guilty of all the charges. Ulbricht, who studied Chemical Engineering and is an advocate of libertarian economics, was what seemed to be a smart, charismatic person with a bright future ahead of him, as his mother, Lyn Lacava describes. “He is a really stellar, good person and very idealistic. I know he never meant to hurt anyone”. However, his online activities seemed to portray a darker side to him. If you can go so far as to excuse Ulbricht for setting up this ‘grand bazaar’ in the name of free trade and personal freedoms, it is more difficult to look past his calling upon the assassination of a Silk Road user with whom he had a dispute with. The user, known as ‘FriendlyChemist’, was accused by the founder of blackmailing to reveal the indentities of thousands of other Silk Road users unless he was paid. This threat being inexcusable to ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ lead him to call upon the death of his online counterpart, In a later post to justify his hit request, Ulbricht stated, “He is threatening to expose the identities of thousands of my clients. This kind of behaviour is unforgivable to me. Especially here on Silk Road, anonymity is sacrosanct”. It’s not just ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ who seemed to have a ‘righteous’ fury over any transgressors of the sanctity of Silk Road. Other regular users, who used this utility on a regular basis, but found that they could no longer have drugs and other illegal goods delivered to their door like groceries are calling for revenge. After the shutdown of this ‘sacred’ service, their chief target is special agent Chris Tarbell – one of the key FBI officials responsible for the tracking down and closure of Silk Road. On rendezvous forums across the web, Silk Road users have been posting the home address of Tarbell with the hope of swift vengeance. As one user, ‘MendoHashMan,’ wrote, “I think there should be a public list of all agents involved, names, addresses, pictures, family info, just make it known that we know.’ Clearly with the shutting down of Silk Road widespread anger has spread across its community. This is not the first time the US government has shut down illegal websites and arrested its founders, only to find the same or similar sites springing up again, but under different domains. Whether there is any point or not in trying to contain the internet, it is evident that people cherish their sense of online community whether it be through innocent online games such as World of Warcraft, or more sinister drug dealing services such as Silk Road, and hence would not allow their fraternities to simply crumble even if they may have to face the full force of their governments. As one of Silk Road’s moderators, Cirrus, put it, ‘We must stand on the shoulders of this tragedy that has befallen us and raise high what still remains - our sense of community, freedom and justice. No doubt we will all regroup elsewhere, and I look forward to seeing all of you again, still free and still engaging in free trade without government interference into your personal affairs.’
This article was imported from an earlier version of Felix Online - see the original article here.