Silk Road, Part 1: The United States vs. the Internet

Editor’s Note: Points readers have no doubt followed the story of Silk Road with some interest, given its role in establishing a new paradigm in drug distribution. Today guest blogger Depaulo Vincent Bariuan begins a two-part series on Silk Road by explaining the now-defunct website’s relationship to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, suggesting that we look at Silk Road’s fate not only in terms of drug law but also as a key site in the government’s efforts to exert more control over life online. Vincent has a B.A. in Asian Studies from Florida State and an M.A. in Film Studies from Columbia, where his scholarship focused on new media. Since graduating, he’s worked in the video game industry.

On July 12, 2012, the Australian Federal Police raided the home of Melbourne resident Paul Leslie Howard. Tipped off by the 46.9 grams of MDMA and 14.5 grams of cocaine mailed to his residence over the course of 2 months, the police also recovered the following in the bust: marijuana, digital scales, clip seal bags, $2300 in cash, a money counter, and 35 stun guns disguised as mobile phones. But this wasn’t an ordinary drug bust – Howard wasn’t connected to any widespread drug syndicate. Most of his product was sent not from any nefarious location but from various households in the Netherlands. In fact, all of his drugs were acquired on the internet through a website called Silk Road. Taken down by the federal authorities this past October, Silk Road had become known as the internet’s one stop shop for any imaginable recreational drug.

Giving the people what they want.
Giving the people what they want.

Much of what people have learned about Silk Road since its takedown comes from the accounts journalists and bloggers have written about the website.

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