Remember a few weeks ago we told you about Bitcoin, the completely untraceable internet currency noted internet person Jason Calacanis believes “could topple governments, destabilize economies and create uncontrollable global bazaars for contraband.” Well it looks as though we’re beginning to see some of Calacanis’ global bazaars for contraband prediction coming to fruition, courtesy of Gawker’s Adrien Chen, who had a source named “Mark” detail how he bought some acid online with Bitcoin.
About three weeks ago, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an ordinary envelope to Mark’s door. Inside was a tiny plastic bag containing 10 tabs of LSD. “If you had opened it, unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t have even noticed,” Mark told us in a phone interview.
Mark, a software developer, had ordered the 100 micrograms of acid through a listing on the online marketplace Silk Road. He found a seller with lots of good feedback who seemed to know what they were talking about, added the acid to his digital shopping cart and hit “check out.” He entered his address and paid the seller 50 Bitcoins—untraceable digital currency—worth around $150. Four days later the drugs, sent from Canada, arrived at his house. “It kind of felt like I was in the future,” Mark said.
Silk Road, a digital black market that sits just below most internet users’ purview, does resemble something from a cyberpunk novel. Through a combination of anonymity technology and a sophisticated user-feedback system, Silk Road makes buying and selling illegal drugs as easy as buying used electronics—and seemingly as safe. It’s Amazon—if Amazon sold mind-altering chemicals.
Getting to Silk Road is tricky. The URL seems made to be forgotten. But don’t point your browser there yet. It’s only accessible through the anonymizing network TOR, which requires a bit of technical skill to configure.
Once you’re there, it’s hard to believe that Silk Road isn’t simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake “online pharmacies” that dupe the dumb and flaccid. There’s no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the site, most of the listings are legit. Mark’s acid worked as advertised. “It was quite enjoyable, to be honest,” he said. We spoke to one Connecticut engineer who enjoyed sampling some “silver haze” pot purchased off Silk Road. “It was legit,” he said. “It was better than anything I’ve seen.”
(Guns and drugs pic via Warming Glow)