Online Drug Trafficking: The History of the Silk Road Market

Silk Road Dark Net Deep Web How Works
Silk Road Dark Net Deep Web How Works

An appeal was filed in the US Supreme Court to review the conviction of Ross Ulbricht, sentenced to life imprisonment for drug sales and computer crimes.

Silk Road was, between 2011 and 2013, the equivalent of Amazon but on the dark web. Instead of selling books and music, drugs were traded there, among other illicit. Its creator was a 27-year-old student of Economics and Physics, named Ross Ulbricht.

Ross Ulbricht grew up in Austin, Texas, in the middle of a traditional family. Those who know him describe him as shy, withdrawn, but very interested in social issues and with a great interest in, in his words, “building something that helps the progress of humanity.”

In college, Ulbricht became obsessed with libertarian thinking and became convinced that the state is an invention to keep citizens oppressed. That is why he set out to develop an online experiment that would show that economic theory could work without regulatory agents. With some computer skills, Ross developed “The Silk Road“, The Silk Road, a space on the Dark Web -the internet that search engines cannot find and in which users are completely anonymous- where drugs were traded in exchange of bitcoins, the cryptocurrency that is untraceable.

The Silk Road had explosive growth. In one year it had a million registered users. The drug was bought online , it was sent home by mail and, at least initially, it was sold only to adults and in pre-established doses. This was initially because in 2013 six people, in different parts of the world, died from an overdose of drugs bought on the Ulrict platform. It was the trigger for the United States Senate to ask to close “the largest drug market in history” and the FBI to undertake the task of finding its creator and administrator. It would not be easy at all.

Ross Ulbricht used the name Dread Pirate Robert  – the “daring pirate Robert” – as his alias on the Dark Web. The name corresponds to a character from the movie The Princess Brideand the choice had its what. In the film, the title Dread Pirate Robert (DPR) belonged to whoever wore the mask, not the person wearing it. With this Ulricht intended to create the illusion that he was not the first Dread Pirate Robert on the Dark Web, nor would he be the last. The FBI agents posed as buyers on The Silk Road, and one of them even offered to buy the platform for DPR in exchange for a billion dollars. Ulbricht’s answer was no, arguing that what was done there “was an experiment that tried to show how the economy can function without a central authority.”

Counter rise

In the middle of the search comes Gary Alford, an accountant who, on his own account, was hell-bent on finding DPR. His father had been a teacher who dedicated himself to fighting drug trafficking in public schools, so he wanted to continue his legacy. Armed with his motivation, his computer and an internet connection, Alford spent a weekend Googling DPR clues. He found them on a bitcoin forum and then tracked them down to a blog for website developers, where a user named “Frosty” asked questions Gary himself “would have asked himself if he were the administrator of The Silk Road. . ” He started looking for Frosty in different places until he found the nickname next to the email address ross.ulbricht@gmail.com  . That was Ulbricht’s big mistake, though not the only one.

Gary Alford came to the FBI and showed them who the DPR they had been looking for was so long. They found the IP address of his laptop , located in San Francisco, California. In that city they mounted an operation to arrest him, but his arrest had to take place while he was logged into the Silk Road as DPR.

At a San Francisco public library, two undercover police officers got into an argument near Ulbricht, who got distracted from his computer, at which point another cop took it. Ross Ulbricht was arrested and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of bail. And here the controversy begins.

The controversy rise

According to the Ulbricht family, the trial was flawed. They allege that evidence was implanted in his computer, such as alleged commissioned killings that were never proven, and that he was given an exemplary sentence because he had shown that “power structures could stagger in the face of the force of the people in the digital world “. They created the Free Ross movement and continually upload videos to YouTube advocating for his sentence to be reconsidered. Now his case is on appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

On the other hand, there are testimonies and reports that account for a dark character, who “fell in love with his legend” and who was willing to do anything to “maintain his position of power.”

The documentary Deep Web – available on Netflix – delves into the life of Ross Ulbricht, the history of The Silk Road and the controversies surrounding the life sentence against its creator.

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