Since Silk Road got shut down by the FBI over a month ago, alternative online black marketplaces have arisen. The two most well known have been Black Market Reloaded and Sheep Marketplace, although the latter appears to be the most popular at the moment. Black Market Reloaded had a bit of a hiccup when an administrator leaked a source code to the site, but so far this has not been a cause for closure. Other alternatives, including Atlantis and Project Black Flag, disappeared pretty quickly after they were born.
Sheep Marketplace is pretty much identical to Silk Road: it must be accessed by the Tor browser and products are bought using Bitcoins in the same way. Even specific vendors who used to sell on Silk Road now sell on Sheep Marketplace. And why wouldn’t they? These online marketplaces, when they run with the proper maintenance and protocols, are far less risky for vendors than if they were to deal on the streets. Hopefully the new administrators on sites such as Sheep Marketplace won’t be as careless as the Silk Road owner was in trying to expand the site so quickly, and all for his own greed.
With the arrest of Silk Road’s founder, Ross Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts), and the subsequent closure of the site, many feared that Silk Road’s aim to stamp out the War on Drugs and drug-related crime might be a lost cause after all.
But with the steady rise of alternative sites, the benefits of an online drug marketplace can be realised once again. Users are still able to purchase high-quality, peer-reviewed drugs in the comfort of their own homes. Buying drugs from trustworthy sellers in this way is far safer than buying unknown chemicals (cut with who knows what) from dodgy dealers or resorting to buying risky research chemicals (aka legal highs).
It did also surprise many to learn that Silk Road has been re-opened for business, resurrected by moderators (one known as ‘Libertas’) and administrators from the original site, but who are still going by the infamous pseudonym of Dread Pirate Roberts. 20 minutes before the re-launch, ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ tweeted: “You can never kill the idea of Silk Road”, a passionate affirmation of the libertarian philosophy behind the website.
The layout seems to be exactly the same as the previous version, but with an added security feature to prevent a further crackdown and closure – this feature allows users to use their PGP encryption key as an extra authentication measure. That said, Silk Road 2.0 has not gone unnoticed by the authorities, so whether the new Silk Road can evade another shutdown remains to be seen. Let’s hope not.
Many users will be sceptical about using Silk Road 2.0 straight away, especially if they lost a large amount of Bitcoins – approximately $3.6 million worth of Bitcoins were seized with the arrest of Ulbricht and others in connection with the site.
No buyers have been arrested in connection with Silk Road. With so many customers now hungry for their drugs (nearly 1 million Silk Road accounts existed according to the FBI), there is therefore still a high demand for such services. If Silk Road and Sheep Marketplace can prove to be secure and stable, perhaps the libertarian goal of creating a free marketplace of drugs can be shown to be safe and viable after all. The government may be wasting its time, effort and money in trying to abolish these sites, since what they seem to have done is created a ‘Hydra effect’, where if one head is cut off, two more appear.
For reports and reviews about Sheep Marketplace, Reddit, as always, provides some really useful information, as well as warnings about possible scammers.