The Dark NetThe Guardian has a comprehensive review of Silk Road 2.0, one of the many successors of Silk Road.

When Silk Road was closed down in October 2013, the prosecutors proclaimed the beginning of the end of this illicit trade. Not so. Now there are around 30 copycat marketplaces, including Hydra, Pandora, Outlaw Market, Agora, and 1776 Market Place, and most of them are doing a decent trade.

The verdict on Silk Road 2.0:

“Buying drugs from professional-looking sites with user ratings, proceed-to-carts and customer-service buttons makes sourcing cocaine a lot like buying a DVD or doing your weekly shop. And every bit as glamorous.”

The site, a Tor hidden service is a marketplace for everything (excluding child porn and other disgusting things) but specializes in drugs, with hundreds of vendors to choose from, selling every conceivable narcotic.

“Every one of the thousands of products on offer has a detailed description, photograph and price. All products and vendors are rated out of five by buyers, who also provide detailed written feedback. There are customer service buttons and shopping trolley carts and free-package-and-delivery and one-off specials.”

The author of the review is Jamie Bartlett, who also wrote the book “The Dark Net,” recently published by William Heinemann. The book presents a revelatory examination of the internet today, and of its most innovative and dangerous subcultures: trolls and pornographers, drug dealers and hackers, political extremists and computer scientists, Bitcoin programmers and self-harmers, libertarians and vigilantes.

Reputation is the Oil in the Machine

The most interesting passage of the long and detailed review:

“It’s the customer reviews, not clever encryption, that’s the oil in the machine, the key to understanding how these markets tick. All the vendors use pseudonyms, but they keep the same fake name to build up their reputation. Because it’s so easy for buyers to switch allegiance to any one of 900 competitors at any moment, the vendors are forced to compete for custom. The only way to get it is by having a good history of positive feedback from other users.”

Could moving dealings from street gangs to online traders cut the risks to users? A recent study by researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Montreal concluded that (the old) Silk Road prevented violence associated with the illegal drug trade. The study concluded that the Silk Road -like markets, based on computer literacy and reputation, are likely to be relatively free from the violence typically associated with traditional drug markets.

Also read: Silk Road Prevented Criminal Violence


What do you think? Comment below!

Images from William Heinemann and Shutterstock.