As the old tune goes, “You gotta give the people what they want.” And what the people want is an illicit online market that sells drugs and other contraband. In other words: Silk Road is back.
When the FBI shut down Silk Road five weeks ago, we predicted that this wasn’t the end for the black market. This afternoon, Silk Road 2.0 came online (in its own words, “we have risen again”) and is officially back up. Its mastermind has adopted the Dread Pirate Roberts namesake used by alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, and even has his own Twitter account.
There haven’t been many feasible replacements since the shutdown of the original Silk Road. Its most viable alternative, Black Market Reloaded, may have been an established competitor but has since suffered from sporadic shutdowns, while newer markets have either buckled under the weight of demand or have turned out to be outright scams – the founder of one such site, Project Black Flag, made off with every user's bitcoins.
Silk Road 2.0 may have a different URL, but uses the same navigation as the old site and utilises the anonymizing network TOR. Bitcoin remains its preferred currency. Crucially, the new site allows users to enable 2-factor authentication using PGP, which adds an extra layer of security by encrypting all communication between buyer and seller.
“[The FBI] can never arrest our spirit, our ideas or our passion,” declares Dread Pirate Roberts on the new Silk Road forum site. “It is now time to simply pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and continue fighting this revolution like we’ve never fought it before.”
While it looks like the libertarian ideals of the original Silk Road are still alive and kicking, some users aren’t so sure about the viability of the site. “If SR 2 is operational by the end of the week, I’ll eat my sombrero,” writes one forum user.
Others are reassured by the fact that the administrators from the original Silk Road have come onboard to manage the new site. Libertas, an experienced admin and a vocal member of the Silk Road community, is one of those inspiring confidence. “Welcome home, all!” he wrote on the new forum.
As of writing, Silk Road 2.0 now has 486 listings for drugs, including 82 offerings of cannabis and 93 listings of prescription drugs. Some vendors even offered discounted prices to celebrate Silk Road’s relaunch. According to the new DPR, over one thousand users per second are arriving at the new Silk Road since it opened its doors.
It’s difficult to tell how long Silk Road 2.0 will last. Right now, the site isn’t accepting purchases – its testing period is scheduled to conclude on 9 November, whereupon buyers can start placing orders.
DPR was right: law enforcement agencies can’t arrest an idea. And that idea, in part, is the enduring appeal of purchasing drugs in a (relatively) safe and reliable environment – one that resembles Amazon Marketplace more than a dark stoop in a bad part of town.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing