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Bitcoin Forum Bitcointalk.org Receives and Answers First Subpoena from DOJ

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:41 PM
Caleb Chen
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:41 PM

Ross Ulbricht Sketch by Vicki BehringerEarlier this week, Bitcointalk.org administrator Theymos posted  to the Bitcoin Forum to update the community that he had received a subpoena regarding Ross Ulbricht’s alleged forum handle, altoid. The subpoena from the Assistant United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York, which has been uploaded by Theymos here, starts with: “GREETINGS: WE COMMAND YOU.” The DOJ requested that Theymos turn over these specific items:

(1) A copy of all posts to the “bitcointalk.org” discussion forum by the user associated to the username “altoid”
(2) A copy of the full discussion thread on “bitcointalk.org” titled “Bitcoin Forum > Economy > Trading Discussion > A Heroin Store”

Ross Ulbricht currently stands accused of running the infamous Silk Road Deep web marketplace, and was arrested in October of 2013. Since the passing of Silk Road 1.0, Silk Road 2.0 has also risen and fallen. Currently, there are dozens of Deep web marketplaces that function with the help of the latest technologies, including cryptocurrencies. His trial will commence in January of 2015.

Bitcointalk.org’s First Subpoena

While this is the first formal subpoena received by the Bitcoin Forum administrator, he clarified  that the site has indeed received other “inquiries” in the past:

This is the first government request/inquiry I’ve received related to Ulbricht’s case. I have received a few other inquiries for other cases.

Theymos preemptively contacted Bitcointalk.org users that had participated in the requested “A Heroin Store” thread to inform them that the DOJ now had a copy of their deleted comments:

Hello. At some point or another you posted something to the topic A Heroin Store  and then your post was deleted, maybe by you or maybe by a moderator. I’m writing just to let you know that I was forced to release your deleted post(s) due to a subpoena by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York related to a case against Ross Ulbricht (the alleged operator of the first Silk Road). Unless you have some connection to Ross Ulbricht, I do not believe that you are under investigation at this time. However, I believe that your post will become part of public record, so you may be at risk if your post contained anything illegal or suspicious. If you don’t remember what your post contained, I can provide you with a copy.

I regret that this was necessary. Hopefully it doesn’t cause you any trouble.

A Reminder that Bitcointalk.org Has Backups and Logs

Some newer users to the Bitcoin Forum were outraged that the Bitcoin Forum keeps such logs that can be eventually given to law enforcement; on the other side of the coin, others applauded Theymos’s transparency while still others thought his transparency lasted expediency. Theymos clarified that all posts, whether deleted or edited, are “always saved forever.” PMs also end up in the daily database backup, which may or may not be kept forever, while IP addresses are only logged if you post. As his latest post in the thread, Theymos clarified his policy on cooperating with law enforcement and government agencies:

I am willing to cooperate with police on real scams. Whenever someone asks me to release a scammer’s IP, I tell them to have police email me from an official police address. I have received police requests a handful of times. Mostly the cases were real scams and I gave the police the requested info. In some cases I’ve rejected their requests. For example, I refused to give information to some foreign version of the SEC because securities laws are unjust. Of course, you should not trust that I will act in your best interest. If you want to be anonymous, then you must use Tor (or whatever).

What do you think about Bitcointalk.org’s handling of the subpoena? Comment below!

Images from AP and Shutterstock.