Man Got Life Time in Prison For Making a Website? What Really Happened
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Man Got Life Time in Prison For Making a Website? What Really Happened


This episode is brought to you by Dashlane;
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all your online accounts secure! They say that if you look hard enough, you
can find just about anything you want on the internet- and if it’s not on the internet,
then it’s probably either on the dark web or the deep web. This was where savvy internet users could
access the now infamous Silk Road internet marketplace- described as the eBay of vice,
Silk Road connected buyers and sellers who were interested in exchanging everything from
weapons to drugs, and quite a few things in between. But just what was the most notorious internet
site of all time really about? Hello and welcome to another episode of The
Infographics Show- today we’re taking a look at the rise and fall of the Darkweb’s Silk
Road. The ‘deep web’ is made up of all the internet
sites not indexed by search engines, with estimates saying that this deep web is actually
many times larger than the ‘real’ internet. It’s not exactly hidden, but if you are a
normal internet user you simply can’t find it because your search engines don’t know
how to- it’s kind of like having a map with only one destination on it, you can’t see
all the branches and forks in the road that lead to other destinations because they aren’t
written on your map. Lurking below even this deep web though is
the infamous dark web, a place where you need special software to actually access. These websites notoriously tend to operate
outside of the law, and are the home of many of the digital horror stories we sometimes
see come to light. Few dark web websites though were as well
known or infamous as Silk Road. A digital marketplace, Silk Road connected
buyers and sellers who used Bitcoin to exchange goods and services which were almost overwhelmingly
illegal. To access this hidden marketplace a user needed
a client such as Tor onion network- a software program ironically developed by the US navy
that enables online anonymity. But what was the Silk Road really about? Silk Road was developed by Ross ‘Dread Pirate
Roberts’ Ulbricht, a young self-described libertarian with a degree in physics from
the University of Texas and a Masters in Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. After graduating, Ulbricht became a research
assistant at his alma mater, but after deciding he didn’t want to be a full-time scientist,
he tried to form a number of startups including an online book store. None of these attempts panned out however,
and Ulbricht took his talents to Silicon Valley, hoping to join the digital start-up community. Skeptical of the government’s War on Drugs
and holding strong libertarian views, Ulbricht developed an online marketplace in 2011 which
he named after the historical trade route network that linked Europe to East Asia: the
Silk Road. Ulbricht claimed to have started this marketplace
of vice with a noble purpose, wanting to make the world a better place and “to use economic
theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression among mankind.” A completely unregulated and free market,
Ulbricht wanted to empower users to decide for themselves what they wanted to put into
their bodies, as well as save them the danger of having to deal with shady drug dealers
or falling afoul of the law. The site matched buyers and sellers and even
let users rate each other in order to build trust within this anonymous network. Transactions were to be made with bitcoin,
which while not completely anonymous were a great deal safer than using credit card
transactions to buy illegal drugs with. While originally setting up the site Ulbricht
claims that he wanted to restrict content to what he considered ‘victimless crimes’-
though try telling a heartbroken family just how victimless a crime it is to enable a serious
and destructive drug habit. Listings to child pornography, stolen credit
cards, assassinations, and weapons of mass destruction were banned, and a survey in 2013
showed that 70% of all listings were indeed for drugs. As the site grew in popularity and began generation
more cash however, Ulbricht- as so often is the case for self-described idealists- began
to relax the policies he set in place and weapons began to be sold on the website. Claiming that this choice was brought on by
increasing regulations on firearm purchases which clashed with his idealistic libertarian
views, Ulbricht offered no explanation for why other contraband products also began to
grow, to include the sale of child pornography. Perhaps Silk Road had grown too big for Ulbricht,
or perhaps the millions in cash he was earning spoke louder than his stated principles. It might seem nuts to buy your drugs online
and have them mailed to your house, but Silk Road provided a level of anonymity which protected
its users for years, even as the FBI launched a full-scale investigation. Buyers and vendors could rate each other based
on quality, reliability,and price, which helped spark confidence from other users. Orders were nearly always fulfilled, with
the exception of the rare cases where the authorities intercepted a shipment, and even
if intercepted, the recipients could simply feign ignorance as to why this package of
drugs, guns, or child porn was being delivered to them. With no digital link to the site, no law enforcement
could produce charges against a customer for simply receiving a package in the mail. Over $1 billion dollars flowed through Silk
Road during its lifetime, and Ulbricht would go on to make an estimated $28 million dollars
by the time he was arrested. Authorities were aware of Silk Road within
just months of its launch, but a focused investigation would take over two years to uncover Ulbricht’s
real identity. Law enforcement had to try and infiltrate
the network, then slowly track down suppliers and administrators on a one-by-one basis. Unfortunately for law enforcement, none of
Silk Road’s admins had ever learned Ulbricht’s real name. However over time, the FBI gradually flipped
Ulbricht’s closest associates and drew nearer to their quarry. Ironically for a man who created an entire
online marketplace that sold illegal goods and depended on complete anonymity and secrecy,
Ulbricht himself would not be discovered by a flipped informant, but by his own digital
carelessness. A simple google search of Ulbricht’s handle:
Dread Pirate Roberts, revealed a connection to another alias called ‘altoid’ that had
been an early promoter of Silk Road on another drug forum. That alias was then traced to a bitcoin forum
where Ulbricht had long ago posted his personal email address. Not exactly a pro move on Ulbricht’s behalf. Though Ulbricht long professed his hopes to
use Silk Road to make the world a better place and help people by letting them avoid dealing
with dangerous drug dealers, Ulbricht’s hypocrisy was revealed in the final stages of the investigation
against him. During the FBI’s investigation, they revealed
the identity of a Curtis Green, a middle-aged father of two who worked as a seller and moderator
on the site. Arrested by the FBI, Ulbricht feared that
Green would become an informant, and without hesitation this libertarian idealist who just
wanted to help people immediately contacted another associate and asked him to kill Green
for him. This associate, known as ‘Nob’, turned out
to be a DEA agent who had infiltrated Silk Road, and using the opportunity to get closer
to Ulbricht, Nob staged a killing of Curtis Green after receiving a sum of $40,000. After the faked assassination Ulbricht expressed
remorse, but said that it had been necessary. If Ulbricht hoped to convince anyone of his
doe-eyed innocent pragmatism however it wouldn’t work, as evidence later revealed that Ulbricht
had attempted numerous times to hire assassins to kill others on his behalf- once even trying
to hire a member of the Hell’s Angels to kill a Silk Road user that was blackmailing Ulbricht
by launching a denial of service attack against Silk Road. Ulbricht would ultimately be exposed as another
greedy fraud, his lofty morals and ideals immediately disregarded the moment profits
started being generated, even going so far as trying to murder people to protect his
profits. A US court would go on to hand Ulbricht double
life sentences with no possibility of parole for his role in one of the largest drug trades
the world has ever seen, with charges of money laundering, computer hacking, and drug trafficking. Ross Ulbricht claimed to want to help people
and make the world a better place, but ultimately all he did was allow criminal enterprises
actively hurting and killing people to easily launder millions of dollars in cash, enable
self-destructive addicts around the world to continue their terrible addictions, enable
the victimization and exploitation of children to be used as sex slaves in online videos,
and put guns in the hands of criminals. Claiming to foster libertarian values and
protesting what he considered government overreach, Ulbricht ultimately would be exposed as a
fraud, interested in nothing more than keeping the power he had earned and all the money
that came with it- no matter who got hurt, or who he had to kill to do it. The Dark Web can be a scary place, and not
one that most people know how to access. But ask yourself, do you know if your personal
information being bought and sold on the Dark Web right now? How would you even find out? Well with Dashlane knowing if your identity
is secure is as easy as clicking your mouse, their free dark web scan will automatically
search for your personal information so you can breathe easy or take steps to protect
yourself immediately. Plus if you store your online passwords and
credit card information with Dashlane, not only is signing in and checking out online
on any platform as easy as clicking a button, but you’ll be notified of any suspicious
activity across your accounts immediately! Head on over to www.dashlane.com/infographics
for a free 30 day trial, and if you use the coupon code ‘infographics’ you can get
10% off a premium subscription! Drug laws may be overly harsh in many parts
of the world, but is free-for-all access really the best solution? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other show
How Did He Become The King of Cocaine – Pablo Escobar. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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