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Darknet Shopper Bot Back In Business; Who Is Culpable For Illegal Purchases?

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:45 PM
Lester Coleman
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:45 PM

Random Darknet Shopper, an automated, online bot that searches the Darknet and buys random items using a weekly $100 bitcoin budget, is back in business following a hiatus last year when it was temporarily confiscated by St. Gallen, Switzerland legal authorities. Last week, the bot, created by a European art group !Mediengruppe Bitnik, purchased a fake Lacoste polo shirt for $35, according to Digital Trends .

The bot is programmed to randomly select and buy one item on the Darknet and send it to the art group’s exhibition space. The !Mediengruppe Bitnik website  describes the shopper as “an exploration of the deep web via the goods traded there.” By making random purchases, it guarantees a wide selection of Darknet goods.

Bot Switches To Alpha Bay Market

From October 2014 to January 2015, the bot bought items from the Agora Market. Agora discontinued its services in September. The bot will now order from Alpha Bay, which the art group describes as the largest deep web market.

The bot’s return doesn’t mean the legal questions raised after it purchased MDMA pills are settled.

The bot took its first shopping trip on the Darknet last September. A month later, it ordered 10 ecstasy pills which the artists included in the exhibition. The St. Gallen prosecutor’s office confiscated the pills along with the bot. Swiss authorities confirmed the pills contained MDMA.

In April, the authorities returned the bot along with the packaging used in the delivery after destroying the pills. As reported by CCN.com, police said the presentation of the pills was safe and it was not the artists’ intention to sell them or consume them.

Who Is Legally Culpable?

The Guardian  posed the question last year: who is legally culpable if a robot makes an illegal purchase?

Last week’s purchase of a fake Lacoste polo shirt for $35 doesn’t raise the question.

Nor did purchases on display last year that included fake Diesel jeans, a stash can, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, a pair of Nike trainers, Chesterfield cigarettes, a decoy letter to see if your address is being monitored, a fake Louis Vuitton handbag and a set of fire-brigade issued master keys, according to The Guardian.

But the bot will raise the question again as it continues to shop markets that combine legitimate sales with illegal ones.

None Of The Sales Involved A Scam

The aim of the project is to explore how trust is built among anonymous participants in commercial transactions that can include illegal sales. The Guardian noted that none of the deals the robot made in last year’s exhibition involved scam.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik artists Domagoj Smoljo and Carmen Weisskopf told The Guardian they don’t fear prosecution for the bot’s purchases. They said they are responsible for what the bot does, but the Swiss constitution says art in the public interest is permitted.

Images from Shutterstock and !Mediengruppe Bitnik.