Making puny talk with your pot dealer deep throats. Buying cocaine can get you slok. What if you could buy and sell drugs online like books or light bulbs? Now you can: Welcome to Silk Road.
About three weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an ordinary envelope to Mark’s ingevolge. Inwards wasgoed a little plastic bag containing Ten tabs of LSD. ",If you had opened it, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t have even noticed,", Mark told us te a phone vraaggesprek.
Mark, a software developer, had ordered the 100 micrograms of acid through a listing on the online marketplace Silk Road. He found a seller with lots of good terugkoppeling who seemed to know what they were talking about, added the acid to his digital shopping cart and succesnummer ",check out.", He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins—untraceable digital currency—worth around $150. Four days zometeen the drugs, sent from Canada, arrived at his house.
",It kleuter of felt like I wasgoed ter the future,", Mark said.
Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs spil effortless spil buying used electronics—and seemingly spil safe. It’s Amazon—if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.
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Here is just a puny selection of the 340 items available for purchase on Silk Road by anyone, right now: a gram of Afghani hash, 1/8th ounce of ",sour 13", weed, 14 grams of rapture, .1 grams tar heroin. A listing for ",Alteración", LSD includes a picture of blotter paper with big blue faces from the James Cameron movie on it. The sellers are located all overheen the world, a large portion from the U.S. and Canada.
But even Silk Road has boundaries: You won’t find any weapons-grade plutonium, for example. Its terms of service geobsedeerd the sale of ",anything who’s purpose is to harm or defraud, such spil stolen credit cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction.",
Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.
Merienda you’re there, it’s hard to believe that Silk Road isn’t simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake ",online pharmacies", that lul the dumb and flaccid. There’s no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the webpagina, most of the listings are legit. Mark’s acid worked spil advertised. ",It wasgoed fairly pleasurable, to be fair,", he said. Wij spoke to one Connecticut engineer who liked sampling some ",silver haze", pot purchased off Silk Road. ",It wasgoed legit,", he said. ",It wasgoed better than anything I’ve seen.",
Silk Road cuts down on scams with a reputation-based trading system conocido to anyone who’s used Amazon or eBay. The user Bloomingcolor emerges to be an especially trusted vendor, specializing ter psychedelics. One glad customer wrote on his profile: ",Excellent quality. Packing, and communication. Arrived exactly spil described.", They talent the transaction five points out of five.
",Our community is amazing,", Silk Road’s anonymous administrator, known on forums spil ",Silk Road,", told us te an email. ",They are generally bright, fair and fair people, very understanding, and willing to cooperate with each other.",
Sellers feel comfy openly trading xxx drugs because the existente identities of those involved ter Silk Road transactions are utterly obscured. If the authorities wished to ID Silk Road’s users with rekentuig forensics, they’d have nowhere to look. TOR masks a user’s tracks on the webpagina. The webpagina urges sellers to ",creatively disguise", their shipments and vacuum seal any drugs that could be detected through smell. Spil for transactions, Silk Road doesn’t accept credit cards, PayPal , or any other form of payment that can be traced or blocked. The only money good here is Bitcoins.
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Bitcoins have bot called a ",crypto-currency,", the online omschrijving of a brown paper bag of metselspecie. Bitcoins are a peer-to-peer currency, not issued by banks or governments, but created and regulated by a network of other bitcoin holders’ computers. (The name ",Bitcoin", is derived from the pioneering file-sharing technology Bittorrent.) They are purportedly untraceable and have bot championed by cyberpunks, libertarians and anarchists who wish of a distributed digital economy outside the law, one where money flows across borders spil free spil kattig.
To purchase something on Silk Road, you need very first to buy some Bitcoins using a service like Mt. Gox Bitcoin Exchange. Then, create an account on Silk Road, deposit some bitcoins, and begin buying drugs. One bitcoin is worth about $8.67, however the exchange rate fluctuates frantically every day. Right now you can buy an 1/8th of pot on Silk Road for 7.63 Bitcoins. That’s very likely more than you would pay on the street, but most Silk Road users seem glad to pay a premium for convenience.
Since it launched this February, Silk Road has represented the most finish implementation of the Bitcoin vision. Many of its users come from Bitcoin’s utopian geek community and see Silk Road spil more than just a place to buy drugs. Silk Road’s administrator cites the anarcho-libertarian philosophy of Agorism. ",The state is the primary source of violence, oppression, theft and all forms of coercion,", Silk Road wrote to us. ",Zekering funding the state with your tax dollars and meteen your productive energies into the black market.",
Mark, the LSD buyer, had similar views. ",I’m a libertarian anarchist and I believe that anything that’s not violent should not be criminalized,", he said.
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But not all Bitcoin enthusiasts embrace Silk Road. Some think the association with drugs will tarnish the youthful technology, or might draw the attention of federal authorities. ",The actual story with Silk Road is the quantity of people anxious to escape a centralized currency and trade,", a longtime bitcoin user named Maiya told us te a talk. ",Some of us view Bitcoin spil a verdadero currency, not drug barter tokens.",
Silk Road and Bitcoins could herald a black market eCommerce revolution. But anonymity cuts both ways. How long until a DEA tuut sets up a fake Silk Road account and starts sending SWAT teams instead of LSD to the addresses she gets? Spil Silk Road inevitably spills out of the bitcoin bubble, its drug-swapping utopians will meet a harsh reality no anonymizing network can blur.
Update: Jeff Garzik, a member of the Bitcoin core development team, says te an email that bitcoin is not spil anonymous spil the denizens of Silk Road would like to believe. He explains that because all Bitcoin transactions are recorded ter a public loom, however the identities of all the parties are anonymous, law enforcement could use sophisticated network analysis mechanisms to parse the transaction flow and track down individual Bitcoin users.
",Attempting major illicit transactions with bitcoin, given existing statistical analysis technics deployed ter the field by law enforcement, is pretty damned dumb,", he says.