He had a name for himself – ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ and for the site too – ‘Silk Road‘ – the online black market for illegal drug trading. And, he even had a home for his trade – the Deep Web – a shady chunk of the World Wide Web which is never a part of any search engine result page. Of course, what else could have served the purpose of its operation better than the Tor service, which cleverly hides online browsers, their identities and locations, and Bitcoin, the open source payment gateway, which is an amazing digital alternative to intermediary banking?
With no one to monitor the traffic at Silk Road, drug peddlers and purchasers could make transactions with ultimate anonymity. So, that, which had started as a hum of a limited number of sellers, had soon turned into a chaotic marketplace within just two years, generating over nine million Bitcoin sales – enough loot to bribe the Lannisters to pass the Iron Throne to us.
This definitely is cybercrime at its peak. But, how unrestrained is a government in poking into such issues? – That’s something to be really bothered about. Still and all, on the 13th of January this year, Ulbricht was put on trial in Manhattan federal court. He was accused of drug-peddling, money-laundering, and encouraging an illegal trade and setting up a criminal firm.
In the general run of things, the entities that are first-of-some-kind, usually gain positive reciprocations, especially if they define fresh, innovative e-trades. But, Silk Road had gathered all negative criticism possible from everywhere and from everyone – the anti-drug patrons, concerned people and of course, the government. The FBI had finally shut down the website in 2013, arresting Ulbricht subsequently. But, late in November that year, the administrators of the site dared to come up with Silk Road 2.0, which too, soon died down.
The charges have come to Ulbricht like a downpour. There is enough proof against him, of his being the Dread Pirate Roberts, and of he leaving a trail of evidences of being the site’s administrator. And, most sensationally, there is proof that he had paid for the murder of those who threatened the existence of the website. No murders were reported. But, the accusation has helped in forming a strong, non-bailable case against him.
We know not much about Ross William Ulbricht’s guiltlessness or about his guilt. But, that the Internet has given criminals a platform large enough to perform wicked activities with ease, is undeniable. For how long do we fight shy of the harm the thick, dark web is posing? It’s not an issue anymore; it’s a crime. And it’s killing people.
A post by Chayanika Deka. 20th January, 2015.