For anyone that doesn’t know, the Silk Road was an online marketplace with no rules as to what could be bought or sold on it. Most people usually think of the Silk Road as this illegal and immoral place where bad people gathered to sell drugs. But only one thing about that sentence is true.
In actual fact, the Silk Road was a place where normally illegal items could be bought and sold in a safe and secure way by people from all walks of life. The Silk Road sold many other things, but it is drugs that have given the ‘Road’ its infamy. The ‘Road’ was run by an individual called the Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR for short), a pop culture reference to the Princess Bride (1987).
Ross Ulbricht was convicted as the ‘DPR’ but no one actually knows if he really was the infamous leader or not. Like the character in the Princess Bride, ‘DPR’ was a nomme de guerre; a title or fighting name. It could have possibly been that multiple people were the ‘DPR’, posing as one man. Like ‘V’ says in V for Vendetta (2005):
“Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea… and ideas are bulletproof.”
I find it hard to understand the amount of notoriety that the Silk Road received in the media. In many posts in the forums of the ‘Road’, the Dread Pirate Roberts lay down his manifesto that people should be able to buy anything they wanted, but within reason. The ‘DPR’ also believed in a totally free market but one that promoted the safe use of drugs and the protection of human life. Some posts on the forum also served as a reminder for drug addicts to change their needles every time they used.
The ‘Road’ also facilitated the secure and safe delivery of drugs to people’s homes, saving people the trouble of having to meet a dealer in the wrong part of town where muggings or robberies could then take place. In the documentary Deep Web (2015), a police commissioner states that crime levels in his precinct dropped massively due to the ‘Road’.
People are going to do drugs and other things no matter the legality. All the Silk Road did was facilitate an online shop like Etsy, except sell these illegal things and make a small profit from these sales. It provided a safe exchange place for the sale of these items and dealt with it in a secure and anonymous way.
I think the Silk Road was a brilliant idea. A market totally free from government supervision, tax rates and laws. However, I feel that the copycat sites are more shady and less safe than the ‘Road’, almost like they reverted back to the old ways of doing business. The Dread Pirate Roberts understood that even a black market must have rules but these copycat sites don’t care for rules. The Silk Road stood for a belief and philosophy while these other mimics only stand to make a profit.
Still, the Silk Road falls into the category of online deviancy; people doing things they shouldn’t be doing, online. Because the online world facilitated the three A’s (Access, Affordable, Anonymous) for the Silk Road, it was an instant success but the latest entry into an online deviants search history.