‘Et tu, Ulbricht?’ – The Silk Road; Sad Times, or Good Riddance?
The Silk Road closes, being ultimately undone by its owner’s promotional zeal and professional carelessness. Ulbricht, you bloody fool!
I’m sat here, in between chukkas, post-debate with a teammate over the whole Silk Road, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR, or IRL, Ross William Ulbricht), FBI fiasco. All I can ask, with the most incredulous of tones is, ‘Are you actually surprised?’
Let me set the scene for you guys: It’s 2011 and you’re intelligent enough (it would seem) to set up a site, accessible via Tor only, that happens to not only have nearly thirteen thousand drug listings for substances ranging from meth-amphetamines and cocaine, to LSD and cyanide for sale; but it also offers ‘legit’ forged passports, malware, stolen credit-card details and assassins-for-hire. Said site also happens to be run in the operating zone of three of the world’s largest criminal intelligence agencies (NSA, CIA, FBI) in a country with a stupidly foolhardy, and somewhat over-zealous, set of anti-drug laws.
Now, and we can stop with the hypothesis, if I happened to be Ross William Ulbricht (from here on referred to as DPR): responsible for a website with an annual revenue of approx. $30 million; handling approx. $1.2 billion in sales and producing $80 million in commissions, I’d make sure I’m as fucking anonymous as Satoshi Nakamoto. Don’t know who Nakamoto is? Yeah, he / she / they are that good!
I’m a bitcoiner with a substantial wallet and long-list of Silk Road transactions. My interest in bitcoins mirrors that of the Winklevoss’; which includes an interest in outside investment and the currency being taken seriously. I have, nonetheless, seen the downside of bitcoins and mining them. Just three months ago a close friend of mine, in the UK, was sent to prison for his drug-related transactions and the Silk Road was mentioned in his hearings. What’s more shocking is that the Metropolitan police were and are aware of Tor and the Silk Road. I don’t fault the Met police and, similarly, I don’t blame the FBI for doing their jobs. Look at if from their point of view: DPR is small-fry in the large scheme of things but his arrest sends waves to more organised criminals. Can you imagine what the Yakuza, Mafia, Triad, or Cartels would do with a website like the Silk Road? This is exactly what every single anti-crime organisation world-wide fears. You can try regulate (SOPA, DOMA anyone?) the Internet but not the Darknet.
The person who betrayed Silk Roaders and the bitcoin community at large was DPR himself. He is an idiot, in my opinion, and I have no sympathy for stupid people – especially stupid criminals. Here is a list of all his fuck-ups, alleged or otherwise:
- Publicity; especially that ridiculous interview with Forbes weeks ago.
- His presence on social media, including YouTube, a Google+ page (why?), and LinkedIn.
- Remotely administering the Silk Road server from a goddamned Internet café without connecting to Tor.
- Ordering contract killings. Two! I’m being serious! One of which was for an FBI agent to assassinate a fellow agent.
- Spouting his ‘axe-crazy’ libertarian views in public.
Unlike what the FBI would like us to believe, I don’t think DPR is a criminal-mastermind. In the words of the New Yorker‘s Joshua Kopstein, ‘Luckily, for those who use anonymity for legitimate purposes, the Silk Road’s bust probably isn’t a blow to the integrity of anonymous networks – it’s a testament to the fallibility of the humans who operate within them.’ I completely agree. Read his full article here:
DPR not only betrayed the almost one million users on Silk Road, but also the bitcoin, Tor and anonymity communities too. With the Silk Road now in the FBI’s hands and with governments world-wide aching to have ways to survey us all 24/7; the ‘pure’ anonymity of Silk Road purchases using a built-in laundry and escrow, known as the ‘block chain’, has now been exposed.
Oh, and with regards to the Winklevoss twins, like me, this also puts a huge dent in our continued battle for bitcoin investment. I, for one, won’t miss Dread Pirate Roberts, or the Silk Road and – like Megaupload – DPR and his website will be forgotten and fall into obscurity. Someone else will take up the mantle, hopefully learn from Ulbricht’s mistakes and life, on-line and on Tor, will continue as usual. The battle rages on!