Twitter is all, uhm, atwitter this morning about a criminal complaint being filed against Ross Ulbricht which alleges that he is "Dread Pirate Roberts", the founder and operator of the Silk Road service. Silk Road gained some fame a few years ago when Gawker ran an article about it with the headline "The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable". Short version: it was eBay for the kind of things you can't sell on eBay. The site was only accessible via TOR and payment was made in bitcoins. I say "was" because at the moment the site just displays a message stating that it has been seized by the FBI.
Mr. Ulbricht is accused of a number of offenses, including:
- Operating a platform for drug dealers to sell drugs;
- Soliciting the services of a hitman;
- Computer hacking; and
- Money laundering.
The arrest comes just a month after a Forbes article revealed the political side of Mr. Roberts:
Roberts also has a political agenda: He sees himself not just as an enabler of street-corner pushers but also as a radical libertarian revolutionary carving out an anarchic digital space beyond the reach of the taxation and regulatory powers of the state–Julian Assange with a hypodermic needle. “We can’t stay silent forever. We have an important message, and the time is ripe for the world to hear it,” says Roberts. “What we’re doing isn’t about scoring drugs or ‘sticking it to the man.’ It’s about standing up for our rights as human beings and refusing to submit when we’ve done no wrong.”
“Silk Road is a vehicle for that message,” he writes to me from somewhere in the Internet’s encrypted void. “All else is secondary.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Ulbricht, if he really is Dread Pirate Roberts, I'm not sure a judge is going to see it that way.
Update: Mr. Ulbricht is also being indicted in Maryland. The indictment includes allegations of another attempt to hire a hitman to kill someone.