Silk Road is an online anonymous marketplace for illegal drugs. All types of drugs from LSD and MDMA to heroin, cocaine and marijuana are able to be purchased on the site. Users have to be familiar with technology such as Tor and Bitcoins to be able to access and buy or sell on the site, but it is open and available for anyone to join.
Silk Road was developed to allow the illegal trade of drugs without being traced. The use of anonymous technology means that a buyer or seller can use the site with their identity being hidden. A registered user may purchase drugs from sellers who will post the substances to them at their home or other address. Sellers are rated on their goods and services much like Ebay.com or Amazon.com which was designed to reduce the risk of potential scams or fake sellers.
Tor is a service that allows people to anonymously use the internet without being tracked or third parties accessing and using their private information. The service was developed to increase privacy for families, organizations and individuals who use the internet and share information. Tor also allows people to hide the location of a website or users location.
Silk Road uses Tor to enable the site to run and also for members to anonymously buy or sell illegal drugs without being able to be tracked. This means that law enforcement officials have very little chance of being able to trace the location of the buyers or sellers and take appropriate action.
Bitcoins are an anonymous form of online currency that are traded and used to purchase goods online. Bitcoins can be used to purchase certain items without having to reveal personal bank account or credit card information which means that privacy is protected. The value of a Bitcoin fluctuates daily which can pose issues for traders, but they outweigh this by the fact that banks or third parties such as PayPal do not take a cut of their money and the transaction cannot be traced.
Silk Road transactions are carried out using this technology. This means that buyers and sellers have to be knowledgeable about the technology to be able to trade with other users. The currency is able to be used to purchase other goods and services online.
Silk Road may allow users to safely and legitimately buy drugs without the dangers associated with street level transactions, however the trade is still illegal. The drugs that are purchased still need to be sent and received at a legitimate address which can easily be tracked and intercepted by law enforcement or customs officials. Being in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia is illegal in most countries and the offense may attract serious fines or jail time. Additionally, if a user is purchasing large amounts of illegal substances, this may be seen as drug trafficking which can incur even more serious consequences.
As of 2011, the federal law enforcement agencies in the United States are investigating the site at and intend to bring criminal charges against developers and users. Law enforcement officials believe that the site is a brazen opportunity for individuals to launder money and traffic illegal substances. The site offers information and guidelines for buyers and sellers which includes details on how to package substances to avoid detection.
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