ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.
On February 2015, a federal court in the Southern District of New York found Ross William Ulbricht guilty on all seven counts levelled against him. These charges were in connection with owning and operating Silk Road, a hidden website that allows people to procure all manner of illicit goods and services anonymously. Following this verdict, on May 29, 2015, the court handed him a life sentence without the possibility of a parole and ordered him to forfeit US $183,961,921.
Through “Deep Web,” writer, actor and director Alex Winter, tells the story of this UT at Dallas graduate and former Eagle Scout turned Dead Pirate Roberts, the Silk Road mastermind. Aside from the intrigues of bitcoins and politics of dark web, this story gives an account of Ulbricht’s trial in his involvement in running the Silk Road in the dark net.
The dark net is an enciphered and hidden network that connects websites and servers that offer safe lines of communications and market havens for criminals, extremists, whistle-blowers and journalists who would otherwise not thrive in the overt digital systems. The real operators of the dark net such as Silk Road consider the development and flourish of unchecked online environment as a way of expressing political defiance.
Ulbricht’s story takes many unconventional turns and apes many not so typical ideas. While in college, he became fond of the ideas of Ludwig von Mises, a libertarian philosopher. Even during these early days, Ulbricht believed in the power of unbridged commerce. He expressed a desire to be able to use economic theory to help humankind fend off government aggression and coercion. In fact, federal prosecutors used this against him to prove that he indeed was Dead Pirate Roberts.
It is clear from the reasoning that the Silk Road mastermind was not just out to make money but rather establish a parallel economy well out of reach of simple decency and the confines of the law. Essentially, he was looking for a way of appending modern capitalism. His was an idea to create and help grow a community of commerce that completely defied government regulation and one that evaded this government intrusion as well.
The “Deep Web” highlights the life and governance systems that are possible in the age of a true digital era. The documentary pits a government with its justice driven by profits on one side and an internet riddled with secrecy and inscrutable tech jargon on the other side. While libertarians easily fall for the dark net’s easy way of life, its peer-to-peer bank-less commerce and shadowy digital communities, such an environment provides terrorists with a great cover to operate as they so wish. On the other hand, conspiracy theories and government-corporate schemes leave the common person with little faith in government-run and “right-leaning” institutions.
This situation creates a delicate environment too cumbersome to balance. While the dark net harbors the freedom that most people would prefer, it also fosters criminal activities and gives pedophiles, drug traffickers and terrorists just as much leeway. The Silk Road for instance, listed and helped people procure every possible illicit goods and services known to man.
The documentary interviews people on both sides of the divide include privacy experts, law enforcement officers and attorneys specializing in Internet Law to try to present Silk Road and Ross Ulbricht’s story in an objective perspective.