silk road (dark web)

silk road (dark web)

Not so long ago, the Silk Road was not only a bustling black market for drugs but a living representation of every cryptoanarchist’s dream: a trusted trading ground on the Internet where neither the government’s laws nor the Drug War they’ve spawned could reach. Today, that illicit narco-utopia is long gone, its once-secret server in an evidence storage room and its creator Ross Ulbricht fighting a last ditch appeal to escape life in prison.
But more than two years since the FBI's Silk Road takedown, the dark web markets Ulbricht inspired are suffering a less tangible but more fundamental kind of failure: the Silk Road’s dream has died, too.
Over the last year, buyers and sellers in the dark web’s underground economy have been shaken again and again when the cryptographically hidden marketplaces they use to trade contraband goods ranging from drugs to stolen credit cards to forgeries have suddenly disappeared. More often than not, those disappearances involve the sites' administrators running off with a significant chunk of their customers’ money. The Silk Road's purported ideology of enabling only victimless crime has vanished. Fears of law enforcement surveillance, and suspected vulnerabilities in tools like Tor meant to protect the anonymity of site administrators have eroded the incentive to create a longterm trusted business.
The result has been that the libertarian free-trade zone that the Silk Road once stood for has devolved into a more fragmented, less ethical, and far less trusted collection of scam-ridden black market bazaars. Instead of the Silk Road's principled—if still very illegal—alternative to the violence and unpredictable products of street dealers, the dark web's economy has become nearly as shady as the Internet back alley politicians and moralizing TV pundits have long compared it to.

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