The Silk Road is back, once again. Five months after Ross Ulricht, founder of the original online drug market, was sentenced to life in prison a new dark net site is now trying to use his brand recognition to attract customers.
A month after Ulricht's original Silk Road was shut down in October 2013 a second site, the Silk Road 2.0, tried to lure in some of Ulbricht's customers. Now, after the Silk Road 2.0's demise in November 2014, a third Silk Road has 2,500-or-so drug listings available.
Each site, and a few dozen other drug markets, exist on the dark net, a hidden section of the Internet only accessible with the Tor anonymity browser. While the Silk Road primarily facilitated trading of drugs and hacking tools other sites have made their name by allowing illegal weapons transactions, or trading in child pornography. The Silk Road 3.0 primarily includes cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, according to Vice Motherboard.
“Welcome to Silk Road 3.0. We are an anonymous, professional and peaceful marketplace selling all sorts of good and services. I am honored to welcome you to our community,” states a message to users when they log on to the site. “There is is no judgment, censorship or repercussion here. We are truly free.”
That sounds a lot like the libertarian manifestos once posted on the Silk Road by the administrator known only as the Dread Pirate Roberts. In fact the operator of the Silk Road 3.0 is using that title, too, borrowing it from both his predecessors.
If the Silk Road 3.0 follows the same arc as those that came before it, though, then don't expect the site to stay online for long. Law enforcement has shown as much, if not more, interest in the Silk Road(s) than the customers trying to buy drugs there. In January 2014 Blake Benthall, an alleged administrator on the Silk Road 2.0, was arrested.