Only two years ago, the Silk Road was a dream coming alive for all the smugglers, drug dealers, and other people who preferred trade in an unfair way or sold prohibited commodities. This was a secure Internet ground out of reach for both the government and the drug dealers from the real world. Luckily, the FBI successfully took down the organization, if it is suitable to call it so, and now the creator of the most popular dark web market is trying to avoid a life-long sentence, as the market’s main server that is no longer secret is stored as the main evidence. But the impact of this arrest goes further than simple ruining of the black drug market—the whole idea of Silk Road has been ruined.
The Silk Road once stood for open, illegal, but victimless trade. Since it was taken down, the dark web has been filled with dozens of smaller and less reliable black markets. Administrators of these markets, afraid of surveillance, now focus on their own safety more than on everything else. So the whole internet black market has recently been shaken by a series of runaways, conducted by such administrators.
Nick Weaver, a computer science researcher in the field of black markets, explains that the dark web is ruining itself from the inside. If you become trustworthy, you become popular, and so you gradually increase the possibility that police will capture you. So the easiest way to earn money and be relatively safe at the same time is to “rip and run.” Site administrators steal the bitcoins that users store in their accounts or that are currently in escrow of some deal and vanish.
After the new Silk Road takedown, black market administrators understood they were all in danger. A wave of market disruptions started with the epic vanishing of the Evolution market, with its administrators carrying users’ bitcoins worth $12 million. Users moved on to smaller sites, such as Amazon Dark, Middle Earth, Blackbank, and Abraxas. These also went offline, leaving sellers and buyers without their money. The cryptoanarchist’s dream was taken over by the boring and dirty reality. And we hope this reality will help make the black internet markets insignificant, if not ruin them altogether.