Good News, Drug Users: Silk Road Is Back! VICE Got a Sneak Peek
Silk Road has risen from the dead. After the FBI seized the deep web’s favorite illegal drug market and arrested its alleged founder Ross Ulbricht last month (for, among other things, ordering a hit through his own website), the online-marketplace-cum-libertarian-movement has found a new home and opened for business today at 11:20 AM EST.
In the wake of the original Silk Road’s closure, everything became a little turbulent for its users. First, they had to get used to not getting high-quality, peer-reviewed drugs delivered direct to their sofas. (Though presumably they didn’t stop getting high, instead forced back to the “mystery mix” street dealers and surly ex-Balkan war criminals who have spent years filling cities with drugs at night.) Some users were pissed off that they’d lost all the Bitcoin wealth they’d amassed, or that paid-for orders would go undelivered, while small-time dealers freaked out about how they suddenly lacked the funds to pay off debts owed to drug sellers higher up the food chain.
Viable Silk Road replacements have been few and far between. Project Black Flag, one marketplace purportedly created to fill the void, appears to have been a scam. The site’s owner recently closed up shop and made off with a load of Bitcoins without sending any product out to customers. Another alternative, Sheep, has been plagued with security worries, with many vendors deciding to hold off until a more stable site is launched.
The State of the Sketchball Internet
Last year there was a lot of buzz surrounding “the Deep Web” due to a viral Gawker article exposing the Silk Road, an anonymous drug market place. This was shortly after Inception came out so people were already hyped about “going deeper” into things. The existence of such an accessible black market outraged parents, politicians, and local news syndicates, but could anyone actually do anything to stop it? In order to understand the impact of this viral event it’s worth it to do a bit of spelunking, post-factum.
To clear up some misconceptions, the Deep Web is hundreds of times larger than the “surface net” we all know and love, and is growing at a faster rate. In fact, most of the internet is composed of deep web matter. Not even Google itself has the capacity to crawl it, so its content exists in the most remote reaches of the internet. It’s everything from innocuous web pages that don’t index to government data like the stuff Wikileaks finds. The juicy parts live on hidden anonymity networks like freenet and tor.
My first encounter with tor was freshman year of college. I used it to bypass annoying network logins and to torrent in my dorm without IT getting on my case. It’s used in countries like China to view censored media without risk of execution. More famously, it serves as a data haven for taboo content and nefarious e-commerce. The system has known vulnerabilities so it’s not guaranteed that you won’t get in trouble if you try to do those things. And you can still find virtually any drug you want on the Silk Road. The bitcoin itself is significantly less volatile compared to its exchange rate in the months following the media frenzy. I got a quote of $140 for an ounce of AK47, $95 for a gram of meth, and $60 for a gram of MDMA at 86% purity.