Drug War

You Can't Stop the Dark Net (Yet Everyone Keeps Trying)

Dark net drug sales have more than doubled since the FBI shut down Silk Road.

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elenizazani/Flickr

BBC News has been trawling the dark net and discovering that drug offerings on the semi-hidden web network have more than doubled since last fall. That's when the FBI closed down Silk Road, the original crypto bizaar, from which dark netizens could purchase drugs and other illicit items exclusively using Bitcoin. 

In October 2013, the Digital Citizens Alliance counted 18,174 deep web drug listings that spanned four main markets. The BBC News team now uncovered some 43,175 listings across 23 markets.

It seems when the FBI closed down Silk Road, all it managed to do was splinter the deep web's drug market while advertising to more people that it existed in the first place. 

BBC News quotes the requisite people saying this is a "big problem", and not only because DRUGS. One dude worries about the collateral damage that comes from people quietly conducting business on a network there's literally no way to accidently access.

"We still think the internet can be a wonderful tool for consumers and businesses, but we do worry good people and companies get caught up in the web spun by criminals and rogue operators," said Adam Benson, deputy executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance. 

"That will slowly erode the trust and confidence we have in the internet."

A representative of Britain's National Crime Agency said it was using "all and every tool and technique" possible to go after dark net drug sellers, because they are not just dealing drugs but "dealing in misery." But an anonymous dark-net drug seller offered another perspective: 

"To us the dark net is all about anonymity and freedom," he said.

I put it to him that he was still selling dangerous substances and supporting organised crime.

"A street dealer could sell you anything without you knowing what it is exactly," he replied. "Because of the strong community on the dark net, this almost never happens. And when it happens, the vendor in question will lose all of his clients."

He added that the online drugs trade showed no signs of reducing. "I've seen the dark net market grow almost exponentially."

It will continue to grow, because—like Uber, and AirBnB, and MyRedbook.com—it makes things both more convenient and more transparent for consumers. And similar to the way websites allow sex workers to go indie and avoid pimps and brothels, the dark web lets small-scale drug purveyors thrive without being part of some organized criminal network. That also gives consumers less need to buy from seedier elements.

So the dark net could actually help reduce drug-related crime, in addition to making drug use safer. But prohibition for its own sake is a hell of a drug for lawmakers and enforcers in the U.S. and U.K.

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  1. But I thought it was the corporations we had to look out for!

  2. “That will slowly erode the trust and confidence we have in the internet.”

    Bullshit. The hidden side has been a part of the net since it escaped ARPA. You’re not doing business with ‘the internet’ you’re doing business with ‘Amazon’, or ‘Silk Road’, or ‘Doctor Bob’s Online Diagnosis and Pharma’. ‘the internet’ is not an entity with which one deals.

    1. Pfft. Next you’ll be saying the same thing about The Economy.

      1. Well, you can get a subscription to The Economy… no wait, that’s ‘The Economist’. My mistake.

    2. “That will slowly erode the trust and confidence we have in the internet.”

      That’s also the first thing that jumped out at me. He’s misunderstanding the nature of the internet about as badly as Jen from The IT Crowd.

      1. Err, no, what’s eroding trust and confidence isn’t the darknet, its the conversion of the “regular internet” into a surveillance platform for governments and businesses alike.

    3. Yeah, anyone who has “trust and confidence” in the Internet is an idiot.

  3. because they are not just dealing drugs but “dealing in misery.”

    Yeah, like I need to find a dealer for the latter. I just need to go watch a Michael Bay movie, and as far as I know, that’s still legal.

    1. Oh God, you’re right. Thank Christ we have the sweet, sweet salve of Roland Emmerich movies to keep us going; I don’t know how I would have kept up the will to live after watching Transformers 2, had I not restored my faith in humanity by going to see that masterpiece Independence Day right after.

      1. Uh, Independence Day came out long before Transformers 2. Maybe you’re thinking of 2012? It’s OK, all Emmerich movies blend together.

        Besides, it’s Uwe Boll who gives us a salve. Amirite?

        1. Besides, it’s Uwe Boll who gives us a salve. Amirite?

          Not since he gained an iota of competence and became just ‘meh’.

          1. Are you talking shit about House of the Dead?!?

            Because I sincerely hope you are.

            1. Bloodrayne was pure art, art I say!

        2. Uwe Boll — a man I have true respect for both as a filmmaker and a human being. Who wouldn’t admire a guy who challenges his critics to wrestling matches?

          It’s like saying you don’t enjoy Schumaker’s films. Impossible.

          1. DON’T TALK SHIT ABOUT LOST BOYS

            Honestly, I think Lost Boys is the only acceptable Schumaker film there is.

            And Boll doesn’t challenge critics to wrestle, he challenges them to box.

            1. And then pussies out if it looks like they might actually be able to hurt him.

              Uwe Boll’s *persona* is awesome, but the only movie he’s done that’s worth a damn is ‘Postal’ – for the opening sequence if nothing else.

            2. Kill your brother, you’ll feel better.

              1. You’d better get yourself a garlic T-shirt, buddy, or it’s your funeral.

            3. Dammit, you’re right. With my inaccuracy on this thread, I’ll never be able to match the historicity of a Ridley Scott pic.

              And yes, Lost Boys was very fun.

    2. I thought that “dealing in misery” was the function of government.

  4. “dealing in misery.”

    They’re selling Joy Division CDs as well?

    1. +1 Cult with No Name

  5. The dark net is also crime reducing.

    People can sell drugs over it without needing gang protection.
    There are no turf wars on the internet.

    And can verify the reputation of the seller anonymously, through the same kinds of ratings systems that are used by sites like Uber and AirBnb.

    1. Which is why the government is trying so hard to stop Uber and AirBnB. If they can work without special licensing from Top Men ‘guaranteeing’ customer safety and satisfaction, then we might start to wonder *what else* might not need Top Men.

      1. Well as long as they don’t touch the budget for the TMLB (Top Men Licensing Bureau) I’m fine.

        I’m sure that Top Men need to get licensed, right?

  6. But prohibitionPOWER for its own sake is a hell of a drug for lawmakers and enforcers in the U.S. and U.K.

    You spelled it wrong, Elizabeth.

  7. Freedom is a terrifying to so many people.

    1. Can we give them the option of voluntary servitude for themselves so they don’t have to experience it?

      1. Nope. ‘Voluntary’ is one freedom too many. Why, imagine if people *didn’t* volunteer for servitude, we’d have people trying to decide between 1,000 brands of peanut butter and producers *wasting* resources making more.

        1. So, servitude for everyone, but with an opt-out?

          I’d settle for that.

  8. I would love to see a study on whether drugs bought this way are as dangerous as drugs bought on the street (or any non-internet means). My guess is that there’s a large class/behavior difference, and that the people buying from the deep web are more educated, college students, etc., and that they are far less likely to do things like drive under the influence or mug someone for money to buy drugs.

    1. Not only that, but the reputation exposure is so much greater. You can get rich quick with a good rep; one bad sale destroys your business.

    2. It’s anecdotal evidence, but I know plenty of people who bought drugs off the SR, and to a man (or woman, as the case may be), they all said that the drugs where higher quality than what they found on the street. Everyone always got exactly what they ordered (no one selling crushed up Adderall pills as XTC, etc) and generally considered it a better experience than the old way of doing business.

  9. And here I thought Continuum was how we were all going to end up

  10. Countdown until pols start hyperregulating the internet has begun. I give it 5 years until you need 15 permits and half a billion dollars to have any kind of upstream bandwidth.

    1. Meshnet will be a thing in 10 years, don’t worry. Then ISPs will be obsolete.

  11. “That will slowly erode the trust and confidence we have in the internet.”

    Um, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. What kind of fucking moron says something this stupid?

    It’s not the internet you’re trusting, jackass, it’s whatever company you’re buying from.

  12. “We still think the internet can be a wonderful tool for consumers and businesses, but we do worry good people and companies get caught up in the web spun by criminals and rogue operators,” said Adam Benson, deputy executive director of Digital Citizens Alliance.

    “That will slowly erode the trust and confidence we have in the internet.”

    Huh?

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