Using 1000-1500 words, critically examine the subject matter. This does not mean that you should simply summarize the topic. You should first provide a brief summary, the remainder of the paper should provide a critique of the strengths and/or weaknesses of the author(s) arguments and/or answering the questions and prompts asked. This should not simply be your opinion. That is, if you state a strength or weakness of the author(s) arguments you MUST state WHY you believe so. Your argument MUST be supported by a reference to the text book or other outside source. Personal opinion alone will receive no credit as even an opinion has a basis in known facts. MUST BE APA FORMAT WITH IN TEXT CITATIONS THAT MATCH REFERENCES!
If the media loves one thing, it is a juicy story they can sensationalize. If they love two things, it is sensationalizing a topic they have no actual knowledge of, like crime, drugs, or technology. To this end, imagine a story in the media covering crime, drugs, AND technology; I present to you, Internet black markets. If you followed that link, then you saw a site called the Silk Road mentioned in the top few queries. The Silk Road was an online black market hosted on the hidden web, an area of the Internet not indexed by search engines. Run by a person called the Dread Pirate Roberts, it was a multi-million dollar a month enterprise that effectively works like an eBay for drugs, bootleg software, and forged documents. Silk Road was not the only website like this, it’s main competitors at the time, Atlantis and Black Market Reloaded, operate in similar ways and offer similar goods with Black Market Reloaded even selling firearms. Shortly after the interview that DPR gave with Forbes, the Silk Road was busted and taken offline. Since that time in late October 2013, the number of active internet black markets went from a handful to more than two dozen with another 15-20 that tried to start only to be compromised in one way or another and never come back. Shortly after the original Silk Road went down, its replacement Silk Road 2 (SR2) went up in it’s place and has since surpassed the original in overall volume of sales. It seems in this case, for every one internet black market that is taken down, another 2-4 pop up to attempt to fill the vacuum. By mid-2014 the markets appeared to reach some stability, which the major markets being Silkroad 2, Agora Marketplace, and Evolution Market. While there were a dozen or so smaller markets, the big three handed a vast majority of the volume, responsibile for over 40,000 listings combined. Then, in Novemeber 2014 the darknets were rocked when Silkroad 2 was seized and many of its high ranking administration arrested thanks to an undercover Federal agent high in the organization. The loss of Silkroad 2 did little to slow down or deter other markets from launching. As of October 2015 there are around 20 English speaking markets in operation with an unknown number of markets using other languages. Much like the hydra, cut off one head, and two grow back.
As of January 2015, the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alledged Dread Pirate Roberts of the original Silkroad, has begun. Only a few days in the trial already has some enough plot twists and surprises that it will make a great movie some day. For a quick rundown of some of the facts of Ross’s trial, check out this thread on Reddit. By February of 2015, Ross was convicted on all seven federal charges and in May of 2015 he was sentenced to life in prison.
So where are these markets and how are all of these people buying drugs online?
These sites are not hosted by regular clearweb hosting providers and are on accessible only via the Tor network, using Tor Brower to access the top-level domain suffix .onion. The hosting of these sites is largely anonymous, however there was a large police raid on the owner of Freedom Hosting, that was responsible for nearly half of all the .onion domains, thus compromising their content to law enforcement officials. In addition, the anonymous, encrypted email client Tormail was taken over by the DEA thus compromising anyone that had ever used this service if they had linked that email to any other identity.
This is not the only time law enforcement has brought the hammer down on these types of sites. In 2012, the DEA arrested numerous people in conjunction with the tor-based website called The Farmer’s Market for drug distribution. Operation Atom Bomb was a multi-year sting set up by the DEA that resulted in fifteen arrests on multiple drug related charges and was the first “big bust” of ant Internet black market.
The method of payment is no less technologically amazing than the websites; the currency of favor is the Bitcoin, a digital cryptocurrency. Unlike the US Dollar (or another other fiat currencies), the Bitcoin is a decentralized, unregulated payment method that can be close to impossible to trace, yet available for anyone to view the transactions of, thus allowing a type of hiding in plain sight. While this is form of payment can be used for illegal activities, there are over 100,000 merchants that accept bitcoin.
With a virtually unlimited supply of illicit materials available to anyone with a computer, that can pay using a digital currency and have drugs shipped straight to their door (via the United States Postal Service no less), what is law enforcement going to have to do in order to crack down? While shipping drugs by mail is not a new trick for drug dealers, the increase in volume of packages shipped and the relative ease that it can be done anonymously has possibly changed the game forever.
WhiWhile some would think that all things illegal are morally wrong (mala en se), many things are simply illegal because laws make them so (mala prohibita). This is the critical distinction between child pornography and online drug markets. Do you think law enforcement should spend extra resources on trying to eliminate online drug vendors when there are child pornographers out there? Why?
. War on Drugs, has it officially been lost? With the escalation of internet black markets, we are quickly approaching critical mass in terms of drug enforcement versus available resources. Has the War on Drugs finally been lost? Why or why not?
. What would be the best strategy to try and close/control these markets?
With marijuana becoming legalized in some states, do you think the federal government should consider rescheduling/decriminalizing/legalizing marijuana? Why or why not, and which method (reschedule, decriminalize, legalize) do you think would work the best to help reduce the strain of nonviolent drug convictions on the criminal justice system?
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