A guest post from Raoul Duke – the future editor of the Silk Road Courier:
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… Even for the community of Silk Road (the underground marketplace made famous mostly for the wide array of narcotics, which are listed ‘Ebay style’ and available for home delivery).
But contrary to images you may have been fed by the media recently of Silk Road’s cutthroat leader “Dread Pirate Roberts” (you know – a miserly, reclusive criminal mastermind, allegedly capable of gross misconduct, depravity and gangland-style murder through a secure and anonymous series of tubes), it seems the latest “Dread Pirate Roberts” (or DPR 2.0) to take the helm of the world’s most notorious hidden bazaar, has morphed into more of a geeky cypherpunk Robin Hood kind of guy who might actually be turning Silk Road into the world’s edgiest charitable organization.
In fact, let’s forget about Christmas for a moment. About three weeks ago, Mr. Roberts released this statement on the Silk Road Forum in regards to the Philippines/Typhoon Haiyan natural disaster:
Silk Road Philippines Donation Fund Address: 1Ni9m1ffciS8r4PpCoix4EmdXdhkE2WsRe
“I am sure by now you are all aware of the recent tragedy in the
Philippines which has lead to millions suddenly losing their homes and
security, but worst of all is the thousands who have lost their lives in
it and the family around them who must now rebuild their lives even after
such a great loss.
Here at Silk Road we are all very fortunate, we have enough money to feed
ourselves, house ourselves and stay comfortable, although even in times of
poverty in the western world this does not compare to the situation which
has now devastated everybody in the Philippines after the storm. I am
hoping as a collective group, Silk Road can help raise money for those in
need and so I have decided to setup a donation fund for those in need in
All money in the above address will not be touched by any of Silk Road
staff for their own purpose and 100% of the proceeds will go towards those
who need it most. To ensure this I have made the bitcoin address one
central pot which we will use to collect donations and thanks to the way
the blockchain works, everyone will be able to see that I have transferred
the money to the right places. Exactly where it will go and how I get it
to them for now will remain a secret but it will be revealed nearer the
time to ensure the receiving organization does not reject it simply
because it is tied to us and I hope even if they are made aware that they
will process it for us recognizing that it has a greater cause rather than
send it back.
If you would like to donate directly to the Red Cross efforts in the
Philippines using traditional payment types, you can also use the link
Before sending bitcoins, I would recommend you also properly mix them or
use Blockchain.info’s shared send feature so the above address does not
become an intelligence gathering pot for law enforcement.
I personally will be donating and hiding my own contributions amongst your
own for my own protection and I hope we can all spare even just a few
cents for our brothers and sisters abroad in their hour of need.
Dread Pirate Roberts”
You Can Send Bitcoins to Help the Philippines Here
For those interested in the success of this initiative, Mr. Roberts announced the following in his Dec. 6th press release:
So, Dread Pirate Roberts and crew just donated approximately $6,500 to the Philippine Red Cross. Not bad for an internet pirate and a group of miscreants, eh?
Of course, a leader as passionate and generous as the Dread Pirate Roberts couldn’t possibly be content with simply rescuing a handful of weather-beaten Filipino Christmas Orphans. In fact, in the spirit of Christmas (and more in-line with the topic of this article), he then went on to announce to his awe-struck community, that while Santa Claus was busy frantically ordering stimulants from his website in the run-up to the hardest night of his year (my words, not his), he would be adding his own glint of magic to the air with his (free to enter) $8,500 lottery – dubbed “The Silk Road Christmas Giveaway” (though, he did later that day dash spirits a little by announcing the temporary closure of Silk Road for the festive period – but we can forgive that in light of the $8,500 prize pot).
Quote from Dread Pirate Roberts:
“I am proud to announce Silk Road is doing a special Christmas period
giveaway over the next few days/week! There are 3 prizes on offer: $1,000,
$2,500 and $5,000! Enough to brighten anyone’s Christmas!
So – how do you enter? Quite simple – just post in this topic. You are
allowed to post here once every 12 hours. If you do more than 1 post in 12
hours both posts in that time frame will be disqualified from entry. That
is all there is to it!
We have selected 3 post numbers at random, and below are the MD5 hashes of
those 3 post numbers. We will provide… [insert technical explanation here
of how the competition was kept fair – you can read the full post by
visiting the Silk Road Forum if technical shit is your kind of shit]
$1,000 Winner: 2dc2d7e907c9176b98bf541af5cc24
$2,500 Winner: 050ec4b7dc007ee5ccad385caa01a3
$5,000 Winner: 1e4cbd844e90b51485cc04e39153be
Time: 22:00 UTC
I would recommend everyone saves a copy of this PGP signed message so
there can be no chance of accusations of cheating/collusion. The best of
luck to everyone entering and I will announce the result once all prizes
have been won!
Dread Pirate Roberts”
So, The Silk Road Christmas Giveaway. What happened, eh? Well in short, although 3 winners were eventually extracted, the lottery turned into a clusterfuck of accusations, shenanigans and bogus forum accounts popping up like daisies. So much so in fact, that some of the hullabaloo spilled over into “The Official Shenanigans Declarations Thread”:
“On the recent $8500 cash giveaway I hereby officially declare:
shenanigans”, said Sir William Wonka.
Silk Road user “Mr. President” was quoted as saying, “I second the
declaration of shenanigans concerning the lottery. Both the management and
the users are equally at fault for the whole situation.”
(Not sure what a ‘Shenanigan’ is? The opening post in “The Official
Shenanigans Declarations Thread” by the OP (original poster), states:
“I’ve seen the term shenanigans thrown around loosely a lot lately. Ladies
and gentlemen may I remind you that shenanigans is a serious declaration.
Shenanigans is sacrosanct on Silk Road.
Deception or tomfoolery on the part of carnival stand operators.
“Officer Barbrady, I call shenanigans!”
An official declaration made by patrons of an establishment who feel they have been cheated. Once a charge of shenanigans has been accepted by an authority figure, said patrons are free to assault the owners of said establishment with brooms.
“I therefore am creating this thread as a place where the community can make their declarations of shenanigans heard and judged officially. Thank you.”
Don’t worry though. If you’re thinking of stopping by next time there’s a contest, you’ll be pleased to know that new users are now forcefully thrust into ‘newbie hell’ – a place that prevents them from posting anywhere else until they’ve hit the 50 post count, ipso facto eliminating such lottery shenanigans.
Why Silk Road is Closed for Christmas
Quote from Dread Pirate Roberts:
This is an advance notice to let you know Silk Road will be closed for
several days either side of Christmas day starting on the 22nd and lasting
until the 28th. Only the market will be effected and the forum will remain
online throughout with limited support.
All funds in escrow at the time of closure will be frozen as will any due
dates. I would advise all buyers to place orders with vendors early to
ensure they receive their products on time before the temporary closure
and can finalize their funds with vendors.
Dread Pirate Roberts
When asked for the reasoning behind the closure, Mr. Roberts stated:
“Some staff have requested time off and I would not like to build up a
large backlog of work for them on return if I was to manage the site
alone. In addition, this gives the development team time to test new
feature implementations and fix an array of issues without stressing about
the server status.”
Other practical reasons to close during Christmas include:
- USPS is busy this time of year. You may see a mail carrier with a headlamp.
- Most vendors go on vacation anyway.
- Staff wants time off.
- New features/implementations.
- DPR is Santa. Or the new Pope. Possibly both.
Other ongoing projects funded or Kickstarted by DPR include the journalist credentials of yours truly – something that’s been covered already by DeepDotWeb: The Courier Project and he also makes significant contributions to help fund the Tor project.
All of this hardly comes as a surprise however – after all, once you register for an account on Silk Road Marketplace, you ‘re greeted by a charter of sorts. And it’s quite welcoming – here’s an excerpt from DPR’s
‘We Rise Again’ statement:
“We have already committed a large percentage of our revenues to good causes, charities, and organizations who support our cause or have similar interests. We are also contributing back to the Tor network with our relay
But without a doubt, the re-launch of our beloved marketplace will create a ripple throughout the world’s various media channels, and not all of these channels will see our cause as positive. You don’t need telling that
there are very powerful media outlets controlled by various world governments, who will seek to muddy our name and reputation. But it is up to us to embrace this newfound exposure in mainstream media, rather than
hide from it – and for this reason, I have chosen to speak briefly with a number of journalists who I am confident will report this memorable day without the pull of governmental strings. I have also conducted an
exclusive interview with Mashable. In light of the FBI’s recent ‘victory’, it would be impossible for Silk Road to stay off the radar – it is therefore our responsibility to make sure that our mark on the radar is the right one. So I would advise you all to prepare yourself for a spike in media attention, and to review your personal security measures to ensure your anonymity is protected.
We will be hiring staff to handle Silk Road’s marketing shortly – formal offers may be made to members who have already demonstrated their marketing prowess.
And it goes without saying that if you are in touch with anybody who may not be aware that Silk Road has risen once more, now is the time to spread the word. Open communication with your old suppliers and customers; let
this wonderful news be taken to all corners of the Tor network and beyond.
Let us never forget this recent hurdle in our battle for freedom. But let us not allow it to stop our fight, either – it is now time to simply pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and continue fighting this revolution like we’ve never fought it before.
I’m proud to have you all at my side.
Dread Pirate Roberts”
More on how Silk Road is supporting the Tor project can be found in the
following quote from Dread Pirate Roberts:
“Right now, we are still in the process of setting up more servers and VPS’s to support the Tor network, but we already have several online. An imperative aspect of Tor to consider is that compared to clearnet operations we actually operate on a network inside a network (inside “the internet”) and therefore high traffic services can be profiled simply by ranking their traffic volume and comparing that against known IPs of the Tor network. Backopy recently stated that hidden services are no place for a single high volume service and he was right – but I believe that rather than give in to this threat and pass the baton that Silk Road should rise to the challenge and proactively counter what threat it poses given the resources we have available. Adding relays and exit nodes to the Tor network is a mathematically provable method to make traffic analysis exponentially more difficult for adversaries and it not only protects Silk Road users and servers, but everyone who uses Tor. Simply put, by increasing the “noise” of the network, it is more difficult to pick out individual services and users just like by increasing the size of a crowd makes it more difficult to pick out individual voices.”
By directly funding the Tor Project and more exit nodes, you can theoretically increase the speed and security of the tor network.
In Summary: Who the Hell is Dread Pirate Roberts?
So, let’s get this straight. Dread Pirate Roberts, (or DPR 2.0, or simply DPR), is basically sending funding to the Tor project, donating to charity, playing Santa, kickedstarting fringe websites (and new
journalists) and, in my opinion, has found his place in the greyhat area that sits between hero and villain (you can find it by taking your second left after the Twilight Zone).
Perhaps we could conclude that he’s a little bit like Jullian Assange and Edward Snowden’s libertarian love child?
Whatever. I like him. And with future projects and collaborations in mind – including possible projects with the Silk Road community’s resident harm reduction specialist “Doctor X.” a.k.a. Dr. Fernando Caudevilla
and an upcoming documentary by VICE magazine in cooperation with the BBC, one thing’s certain: our fringe community is going to have a very Merry Christmas indeed.
And we hope you do too.
Reporting from the edge, this is Raoul Duke.