Some people have been saying recently that the legalization of marijuana in our state is a definitive blow to the War on Drugs in the US. While the importance of this legislation cannot be overlooked, it is nothing compared to what the Internet is doing to the illegal drug trade.
In February 2011, a website called Silk Road reared its head from the depths of the Internet. Silk Road has been compared to a “black market Amazon” because its primary function is distributing illegal drugs that can be purchased anonymously online, and sent through the mail to a buyer. Last year, the site’s annual sales totaled $22 million.
It seems unbelievable, but a gram of crystal meth is no harder to buy than a sweater on Amazon these days. I’m not much of a computer whiz, but apparently Silk Road is run out of the deep web, a part of the Internet that cannot be accessed by typing in a web address or searching Google.
The deep web is a part of the Internet that is incredibly encrypted so that anything that you do on your computer cannot be traced back to you.
To access this part of the Internet you have to run a network called TOR, which makes your computer anonymous to the online world.
Once you have TOR you are able to access to the deep web and thus, Silk Road. This website offers a cornucopia of illegal drugs, from a gram of Afghani hash to 50 sheets of LSD. The drugs are sold from different vendors on the website, and everyone using the site has to create a user ID to make a purchase.
This is so that user feedback can be given to specific vendors on the quality and price of their product, and it helps prevent scams. Like Amazon, there is a “Top Sellers” section where the highest-rated drugs from the trustiest vendors can be bought for the fairest prices.
Speaking of paying for drugs, there is no awkward transaction of money between you and your drug dealer on Silk Road. In fact, there is technically no transaction at all because of the encryption of the deep web.
Untraceable, online currencies called Bitcoins are used to purchase things, but the exchange rate of Bitcoins to USD can fluctuate wildly from hour to hour. You have to use an online exchange service to obtain Bitcoins, but you basically just deposit them into your Silk Road account and then you can start buying weed, heroin, meth or Oxycontin.
Except Silk Road doesn’t offer absolutely everything. You won’t find human beings for sale or weapons of mass destruction, because the site’s terms of service ban the sale of anything harmful or defrauding such as guns or stolen credit cards.
Instead of loading submarines with cocaine or putting heroin in the caskets of American soldiers, drug dealers are finally selling their products in a civil, secure and I daresay: ethical way.
With the user rating and review system, anyone scamming people or selling fake drugs will be ostracized and ousted from the online community. Also, nobody can be shot or killed in an online drug transaction.
Think of Mexico, for example. The violence from the drug war has killed an estimated 67,000 Mexican civilians. The cartels are known for their grotesque violence, but even these organizations are moving their business online.
Rather than relying on a weapon-strapped drug mule to cross the border, they are relying on the Internet and postal service. If the drugs do not arrive or are intercepted, it is not their problem because they have already received Bitcoins for their products.
However, the violence doesn’t just come out of Mexico. Fifteen year-old kids are shot everyday in our cities selling drugs. Unnecessary lives are being lost.
I’m not advocating for anybody to use drugs, or go online and buy drugs, but I am advocating a much safer marketplace for them. Drugs aren’t safe in any way, but you shouldn’t have to kill yourself obtaining them.