While existing for many years, the Dark Web became quite popular after the publication of a June 2011 article about buying drugs on the Dark Web that was featured in Wired Magazine.
The article focused on arguably the most popular Dark Web site, The Silk Road. The name refers to the trading route that existed between Europe and the Orient for thousands of years. The Dark Web’s Silk Road, however, is an anonymous marketplace that sells everything from tame items like books and clothes, to more illicit goods like fake passports and drugs.
Aesthetically, the site appears like any number of shopping websites with a short description of the goods, with a photograph accompanying it. Here is a recent screenshot of the Silk Road website:
Users fear scammers on the Surface Web, with even more reason to be afraid on the Dark Web, where all are anonymous. The Wired article noted this: “Once you’re there, it’s hard to believe that Silk Road isn’t simply a scam. Such brazenness is usually displayed only by those fake “online pharmacies” that dupe the dumb and flaccid. There’s no sly, Craigslist-style code names here. But while scammers do use the site, most of the listings are legit” (Chen, Wired).
But for what it’s worth, the Silk Road system really works: “Silk Road cuts down on scams with a reputation-based trading system familiar to anyone who’s used Amazon or eBay.” (ibid). The Wired article quotes an anonymous moderator of Silk Road about users of the site: “They are generally bright, honest and fair people, very understanding, and willing to cooperate with each other.”
In their own expose on the Dark Web, the BBC “made a purchase of the hallucinogen DMT – a class A drug, ranking it on a par with heroin and cocaine […] Analytical Services International, at St George’s University of London examined the drugs. The lab test proved the powder was DMT – and that the dark web works” (Goldberg, BBC).
Video: A BBC News report about the Dark Web and the Silk Road.
What is fascinating about this community is that the site is inherently illegal and anonymous, yet there is a sense of cohesiveness – a drive to be moral so that all prosper. Erickson notes: “A human community can be said to maintain boundaries, then, in the sense that its members tend to confine themselves to a particular radius of activity and to regard any conduct which drifts outside that radius as somehow inappropriate or immoral. Thus the group retains a kind of cultural integrity” (Erickson, 8). In the case of the Silk Road, the transactions involving drugs are not immoral. Rather, scamming other users on the sites becomes the moral issue.
Next, Stolen Goods – For Sale