You may have recently seen the movie, which was a bit of fun, but the true story behind Silk Road has more twists and turns than any film could hope to cover.

I first came across Silk Road in 2011, and soon began to spend part of every single day there, beginning to write about it for newspapers in Australia in early 2012 and starting a book about it later that year.

My first book, Silk Road, was accepted by my publisher while Silk Road was still going strong. Ulbricht was arrested just as I was putting the finishing touches to it, so it had to become a “rise and fall” thing. However that came out long before the trial, where so many previous things were unknown.

After the trial, I travelled the world to meet Silk Road’s top four lieutenants face to face - one in Australia, one in Bangkok Central Prison, one fighting extradition in Ireland and one on house arrest in the USA.

The result was “The Darkest Web” which not only goes into the truth behind the rise and fall of Silk Road, but also delves into other parts of the Dark Web which are far more sinister.

My last AMA covered all things Dark Web and lots of interesting stuff covered. You're welcome to ask any general questions but I really wanna chat all things SILK ROAD. AMA!

My proof:


Comments: 315 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

ForeignBazaar70 karma

In no way am I condoning the products or services sold on Silk Road, but have you wondered whether jailing Ulbricht for life(?) is justice served ? I can't help but wonder if the state should somehow use his talents for some greater public benefit.

OzFreelancer155 karma

I think his sentence is manifestly excessive and due process was not followed for him at all. His sentence was clearly to "send a message" rather than a proportionate response to the crimes actually commited

nouveaugeorgian-11 karma


OzFreelancer51 karma

Two live sentences, plus 40 years, with no possibility of parole is not a standard sentence handed out to anyone, let alone a first offender.

Not even El Chapo got that hefty a sentence.

And yes, all non-violent drug offences should carry minor, or zero prison time. If you follow evidence-based research on the matter, drugs should be legalised and treated under the health system, rather than the legal system. The War on Drugs is an immoral and absolute failure on every front and systemic change is required if you actually want to stop people from dying

Cuddlyaxe36 karma

I might be wrong here but I think his sentence length was more to do with the fact that he tried to order a hit on people than the fact that he ran a illegal market

OzFreelancer40 karma

The evidence led of him trying to arrange for and paying for six murders (albeit that no murders took place, and five of them were murders of people who didn't actually exist) was in furtherance of the "kingpin" charge.

Do I believe he did that? I'm absolutely sure of it. Do I believe it should have been allowed into evidence at trial? No way. They laid the charges initially knowing that they would never, could never, make it to court. All they had were chat logs that could have been authored by anybody and it would have been demolished if it had actually made its way to court. This way they were able use evidence in court that would never stand up on its own charge, and he was sentenced on that rather than actual harm caused.

There is a large field of academic research that showed Silk Road was likely to *reduce* harmful drug use, not increase it.

Not saying he shouldn't be serving time, it's just that he shouldn't have this sentence that is really about politics and a show of power

historychick9115 karma

Admittedly, this is the part I struggle with. Regardless of whether it should've been used in court and the fact that no harm was caused, didn't Ulbricht actually believe that he had ordered those hits and that they were successful?

Charged or not, that tells me that Ulbricht was a guy who was more than capable of going above and beyond the kingpin role. So that's when I find it difficult to be sympathetic in regards to the excessive sentencing.

OzFreelancer3 karma

I get where you're coming from and yes, I totally believe he did. I'm just uncomfortable with him being able to be put away for the rest of his life on evidence that would not withstand scrutiny in its own case. There is a high bar for criminal evidence for good reason

Pahoalili1 karma

You’re from Australia, and don’t seem to understand US law and politics, based on this statement. Also, I read your first book and now after reading your responses here, it seems you are glorifying Ulbricht and cherry-picking facts. I thought journalists were supposed to be objective smh.

OzFreelancer1 karma

You're absolutely right I don't understand it. It seems to me judges are political appointments and the "justice" system is particularly sadistic and more interested in revenge and punishment than rehabilitation.

Call me old fashioned, but I think in order to be *sentenced* for something, you should first be *tried* for that thing

My first book was written as Silk Road was on the rise, as a record by someone who was intimately familiar with it from that perspective. My second book was written after the trial and after I met with many of the staff and vendors from the site. Maybe you should have a look at that one and make your judgment from there :)

eqleriq1 karma

Nope, this is a weirdly outdated position.

The entire point of establishing that he “would have murdered” isn’t nothing just because “no actual harm was caused.” That is absolutely not how the scoring (that you haven’t addressed) works.

JuSt AbOuT PolItIcS aNd PoWeR like the US Government needs to do that. LOL.

I’ll believe that he is a government op before I believe that the dog and pony show was even remotely more than theatrics

OzFreelancer2 karma

I actually can't understand what point you are making with your double-negatives and weird capitalisation. And who said he was a government op?

My position is that his sentence was based in part upon charges (MFH) that were laid insincerely (as there was no way they were ever going to get to court). There's a good reason that the bar for evidence in a criminal trial is set high and it seemed to be circumvented in this case

watches_yousleep53 karma

What are your thoughts on the morality of dark net markets such as Silk Road?

OzFreelancer156 karma

Generally speaking, I think the darknetmarkets provide those who are going to use drugs anyway a safer way of acquiring them. Moving online means not having to come face-to-face with dealers in real life, eradicating the threat of violence, and buyers are more likely to get what they paid for than if they buy from a friend-of-a-friend or in a nightclub thanks to the ratings and feedback systems.

It's when the darknetmarkets venture into other categories that it gets murky. Most of the big markets also sell fraud items, personal information, hacking tools and things like that. Some even sell weapons. That becomes a problem.

Silk Road had a philosophy that it would not sell anything "the purpose of which is to harm or defraud another person". Some markets still operate on that philosophy, but many are just there to make money

TonyWhoop64 karma

Yup, I was a casual darkweb market user for a while to get MMJ in a restricted state. Am in a legal state now. It was convenient and I learned a bit about crypto currency and cryptography through the deal. I put it down for a while with some bitcoin sitting in a wallet, it quintupled in the interim. Generally a win/win/win for me.

OzFreelancer114 karma

Haha, many people in Silk Road's heydey found themselves getting non-stop free drugs, They'd put $500 of Bitcoin into their account, spend $200, come back a couple of weeks later, and there was still $500 in there. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum as Bitcoin rose exponentially

TonyWhoop22 karma

The other side to the coin are all of the questionable things I saw available for purchase. While an unregistered firearm isn't necessarily illegal when the proper avenues are travelled down, they were available for purchase and that was quite illegal.

OzFreelancer28 karma

Yeah, the debate over weapons being allowed was furious

eqleriq0 karma

Cool but extremely short-sighted: convenience and protection for the buyer is ALSO convenience or protection for the seller which solidifies their power.

The simplicity of a distribution chain being disruptable has benefits for law enforcement and arguably prevents more deaths via destabilizing power and providing an exposure of the network than “safety of a consumer.”

In fact I believe the “safety of the consumer” is a false narrative used to propagandize cartel normalization.

If you applied the logic of “They’ll buy drugs anyway” to every crime in existence there would be vastly fewer laws and more people basically getting a free pass towards exploitation and unfairness.

Saying that anonymous communication channels wouldn’t enable crime if you made everything legal is just brain damaged

OzFreelancer5 karma

You seem to be coming from a position of "drugs are bad". I'm coming from a position of "the war on drugs has failed". Drugs are not inherently bad, and most drugs sold on the darknet markets are less harmful to both the consumer and society than tobacco and alcohol. Most people who enjoy recreational drugs do so responsibly - there is a massive chasm between drug use and drug abuse. Most of the problems of drugs stem directly from their criminality, not from the drugs themselves. Legalise and educate and there won't be any cartels to nomalise. In the meantime, people who just want to use drugs should have a safer way to access them

LA-Danno47 karma

What's the latest on Ross Ulbricht prison sentence? Has he got any appeals left? If so, how high would you rate his chances of even a lesser sentence?

OzFreelancer84 karma

Ross has exhausted all appeals. He and his family were very hopeful of a pardon by Trump (whom it was reported was seriously considering it), but it didn't happen.

Ross's only hope now is a presidential pardon, or sweeping changes in legislation

LA-Danno32 karma

Oh that's interesting about Trump!

The Darkest Web was fantastic btw! Really enjoyed all the Casefile file episodes you've contributed too as well!

OzFreelancer26 karma

Thanks very much for saying so, it means a lot :)

GtotheBizzle38 karma

I'm very uninformed about the whole silk road thing, as you might see by my question. Is it true that people could hire hit men and get away with it? It just sounds so unbelievable but most of the silk road stuff is pretty far out...

OzFreelancer113 karma

No, it's not true at all. Silk Road never allowed "hitmen" to advertise their services. There are a plethora of murder-for-hire sites on the dark web, and all of them will take your bitcoin. None of them will murder anyone for you. Yet there are still people who fall for it to this day, and send thousands of dollars worth of bitcoin hoping to have a hit carried out.

The only verified incident of a murder being ordered on the dark web and actually being carried out happened on a Russian site called Hydra. Both hitman and the person ordering the hit were caught.

It is true that the Dread Pirate Roberts (owner of Silk Road) tried to privately hire a hitman, but he too was scammed, once by corrupt law enforcement and the other time by a serial scammer

forgetshisuser112 karma

What leads you to say that it’s not true for the rest of the dark web? Is there really any way to know whether or not any aren’t scams and were carried out successfully without being caught?

I’m not doubting you, I’m just curious how you know.

OzFreelancer34 karma

I've actually done loads of research into the murder-for-hire sites on the web, and have had a lot of interactions with the owner of the most prolific and profitable of them - he even offered me a job, because he had more work than he could handle. He scammed the people who tried to hire hits, took their money and then kept on needing more, Nigerian Prince-style.

What I'm talking about, though, is the sites that advertise murder-for-hire. They are all scams. That's not to say people haven't organised murders via different dark web forums or encrypted messaging sites - people have organised way worse. But that is a private thing, not a commercial transaction via hire-a-hitman sites

SaucyLimpet2 karma


OzFreelancer51 karma

It depends what you mean by "worse". It is "worse" if you don't like the idea of a massive drugs and fraud shop being able to operate openly and even advertise for customers. It is certainly worse when it comes to allowing child predators to find each other and form communities.

However, the dark web. is not in and of itself evil. It serves an important role for those who legitimately need to communicate with guaranteed anonymity (whistleblowers, people operating in repressed regimes etc). It is a great tool for those of us who want to be online, but don't want to be tracked everywhere we go. It is just another tool that can be either used or misused

SaucyLimpet10 karma


gedical6 karma

Worth adding: what is referred to as “darkweb”, is actually the Tor network, which sounds less sketchy.

OzFreelancer23 karma

If you wanna get technical about it, "dark web" = "hidden services" (which may or may not be on the Tor network)

SlightlyOTT1 karma

Did Silk Road actually vet every ad before it went up or have robust moderation and take things like that down then? That’s pretty interesting, I assumed it basically didn’t have any rules and was a real Wild West.

OzFreelancer6 karma

In the beginning they were vetted because it was just a small operation, but eventually he had a full-time staff, spanning all the timezones. Vendors could post without it being vetted first, but as soon as anyone flagged a listing, it was reviewed and taken down if it violated any of the rules

ttystikk38 karma

What is your greatest concern about the dark web in terms of how it could be used to cause harms?

OzFreelancer124 karma

A massive portion of the dark web is used to create and disseminate child exploitation materials. Of course, this was going on long before the dark web existed, but the dark web has provided a "safe space" for child predators to get together, and the nature of the dark web means that it is easy for these people to find these communities and each other. I think that normalizes what they do (in their minds) and there is considerable evidence of the predators egging each other on and assisting with covering up their abuse

jwill60228 karma

The Silk Road had some... interesting content. The weapons category was small. I always wondered if it was a scam or not. Do you think all the listings for that sort of stuff was genuine? It was easy to find reviews on some items and there were active forums discussing products, but I was always utilized about the more morbid stuff on there.

OzFreelancer52 karma

The weapons section of Silk Road was short-lived and contentious. There were huge discussions in the forums about whether the sale of weapons should be allowed or whether they fell into the category "the purpose of which is to harm or defraud another person". In the end, those who didn't want weapons listed prevailed, and weapons were moved onto a secondary market called The Armory

The Armory had few sales, many of those turned out to be scams, and it was shut down not long after. It was definitely a failed venture as far as SR was concerned.

There are still a few weapons markets around, but they make up a tiny, tiny part of both the worldwide weapons trade and the dark web

ByrneyWeymouth27 karma

Hi Eileen, how much truth do you think there is in PluralOfMongoose's long 2015 post on the myplanetganja forum? I must admit I haven't picked up "The Darkest Web" yet but I will. Do you explore that in the book?

OzFreelancer51 karma

Great question! Not enough people ask about Variety Jones/Mongoose!

I actually go into a great deal of detail about it in The Darkest Web. It's hard to say for sure. Mongoose's usual style was to exaggerate most things and to make a lot of stuff up. When I visited him in prison in Bangkok, he was still insisting Diamond was real. There is definitely evidence of another as-yet-unidentified rogue agent who extorted money from Silk Road

It has been made even more intriguing by the recent forfeiture of $2bn in bitcoin to the US Government by someone known only as "Individual X". Could it be the mysterious "Diamond"?

ByrneyWeymouth14 karma

Thanks, very interesting - I'll buy the book and I encourage others here to do the same!

OzFreelancer12 karma

Cheers! That means a lot

jurassicmayms22 karma

Do you think the pros of the dark web outweigh the cons?

Face to face do the people behind some of the more notorious parts just seem like normal people?

OzFreelancer71 karma

I'm a massive privacy advocate, as well as a drug law reform advocate, so I'm a supporter of the Tor project, EFF and others in the space. It's not the dark web that's evil, it's some of the people who use it. To be against the dark web would be akin to being against the internet. It is merely a tool.

It's funny, all of Silk Road's top lieutenants (Variety Jones, Inigo, Libertas and SSBD) were very much as I had imagined them. Variety Jones/Mongoose in particular was a perfect personification of his online persona.

The one that came as a shock was Lux, the owner of Hurt2theCore, the most heinous site to ever exist of the dark web. I wrote about coming face to face with that monster here. TL;DR he was practically a frigging kid

jamurp29 karma

Interesting article on Lux, very hard to read in terms of the horrid content though, can I ask what he was sentenced to in the end? Would be disappointed if it’s anything less than life.

OzFreelancer21 karma

It was a total of 17 years if memory serves me correctly, and the lower end was something like 12 years. That's just going by memory though, don't quote me on it

jamurp18 karma

Appreciate the response, too lenient if you ask me, will find himself doing the same thing in 12-17 years anyway imo.

OzFreelancer33 karma

Honestly, I'd be surprised if he survives prison

ExpatJundi8 karma

I genuinely wish I hadn't read that.

OzFreelancer5 karma


_noho7 karma

What do you mean by lieutenant’s? Is this a term they used themselves? I haven’t heard it used in drug dealing outside of the wire and a couple people I know that have done some time.

OzFreelancer15 karma

I think it's a fairly common term, that really just means his top staff who were deputised to carry on aspects of the business for him. It also suggests a certain amount of loyalty (which his people certainly had)

But no, a lot of the time they used terms like "First Mate" (Inigo) and other lame pirate-themed signifiers. Or just "Admin" or "Mod"

_noho5 karma

Thanks again for answering my questions!

OzFreelancer3 karma

That's what I'm here for! ;)

jwill60220 karma

Do you know anything about XanaxKing? I remember it making news when he got arrested. Apparently he had a vast sum of money that his partner disappeared with. Are there any updates on her or all his missing money?

OzFreelancer20 karma

I vaguely recall Xanaxking's arrest, but it's not one of the ones I've followed up on, so don't know the current status, sorry

jwill60210 karma

Thanks. He was one of the first, if not the first, massive dealers to go down.

OzFreelancer13 karma

Yeah, I think I may have mentioned him in my first book, but since then, there have been so many major vendors taken down, it's hard to keep track of them all unless I was somehow more closely involved

deadfeet314 karma

I always heard about the silk road being a site for drugs, was there any other sort of notable merchandise commonly bought?

OzFreelancer27 karma

It was mostly drugs, but there were other things. Most notably fake IDs (someone sent me one for free to review because people had a hard time sending their photograph to an anonymous person on the internet). There were sometimes lists of things like PDFs of "banned books" or tutorials. Someone once claimed to be selling genuine shrunken heads . But mostly it was drugs.

fkurtin13 karma

what impact do you believe Silk Road has had on the current dark web activity/ the internet in general?

OzFreelancer31 karma

Oh wow. You've basically asked me to sum up the last decade of my work in one AMA answer :)

Silk Road changed the face of drug dealing forever. The annual Global Drugs Survey has shown an exponential increase in people obtaining their drugs on the dark web year-on year. People prefer it because the quality is higher due to the ratings and feedback of the different vendors, which means they can research what is in their drugs before making a purchase, unlike when they buy from a friend-of-a-friend or at a nightclub. Because most of the buyers are not criminals in any way other than the fact they like to take drugs they often don't want to associate with the sometimes violent criminal element that may be required if you want to get a regular dealer.

It is almost inevitable that it would have happened at some point, but I don't think it would have reached the point it has (ie practially mainstream) anywhere near as quickly as it would have if anyone other than Ross Ulbricht started Silk Road. If Silk Road had been started by just some other crook who wanted to make a quick buck, it would have had a short life, most people would have been scammed and it would be on to the next. The fact that Silk Road was started with a robust philosophy (whether you believe in libertarianism or not, it is an attractive, albeit simplistic, philosphy for many) and the strict rules of conduct (don't sell anything the purpose of which is to harm or defraud another, safety is paramount etc) meant that it became much more than just a place to sell drugs. It became a community, a movement, academics studied it (and came to the conclusion that from a harm reduction, evidence-based perspective, it wasn't bad). The fact that it ran (mostly) smoothly for almost three years, with thousands of happy customers meant that people understood what a darknet market could be. So even though many of the others that followed ripped of customers, got busted due to lousy opsec etc, the knowledge is there of what can exist.

-mjneat11 karma

I kind of think he was punished more for his philosophy than the drugs tbh. It’s hard to describe the appeal of SR to normal people but it was full of privacy info, tech info, cryptography and Bitcoin info and if that discussion wasn’t your thing there was a book club or a philosophy board. It was also demonstrated proof that Bitcoin worked in practice. No drug market after captured the feel of SR and it’s mostly now a commercial venture not that I use them much at all these days. Was also packed full of people who spent their days advising people how to safely use drugs and to test etc. It really did feel like a true community. I think BMR was probably the only other market that had anything close to it that didn’t eventually exit scam but verto(?) didn’t have the charisma or presence of DPR in my memory of it anyway.

OzFreelancer11 karma

Damn, that wave of nostalgia you've just given me!

It was a special time and a special place when it was good

DWDwriter13 karma

I know there really was a corrupt police officer involved in Silk Road but how accurate was his portrayal in the movie?

OzFreelancer35 karma

I think of all of the movie, the cop was the most invented character.

There were two (main) corrupt law enforcement officers on the Silk Road Taskforce. Carl Mark Force was DEA and was the one who went undercover (legitimately) as "Nob" the cocaine dealer and would-be hitman. He also had several other usernames unknown to his superiors. Some he used to provide information on the investigation to Dread Pirate Roberts in return for payment and the others he used to extort him. Both methods netted him a fair amount of bitcoin.

The one who siphoned all the bitcoin out of Silk Road vendors accounts once they arrestred Curtis Green was Secret Service agent Sean Bridges. He had the techncial know-how, and simply emptied the bitcoin accounts into his own account, making it look like it was Curtis (Chronicpain) stealing the bitcoin.

Funnily enought, neither corrupt agent knew about the crimes being carried out by the other.

Neither had a sick daughter. Neither unmasked Ross or met him before he was taken down. Both went to prison. Both are now free

ejonze13 karma

Holy shit is this over? Either way I love you Eileen ormsby! Many of my favorite casefiles come from your writing!

OzFreelancer8 karma

Thank you!

AMA still going, it's much slower than my last one (thank goodness). I'm just answering questions inbetween working (including on a new Casefile!)

LadyJekyll13 karma

I see you visited Mongoose/VJ in prison! What was he like as a person from YOUR perspective? Is he what you imagined?

OzFreelancer30 karma

He was exactly as I imagined. He was the personification of the online Mongoose. He was manic and chatty, but also incredibly sharp. Not a single thing I said got past him, and every visit would start with him bringing up something I'd said on the previous visit, which he had time to analyse, and now he had questions or observations about it.

I definitely wouldn't want to have him has my enemy

rabidnz11 karma

So was Mongoose talking shit???

OzFreelancer26 karma

Well, Mongoose talked a LOT of shit. The clever thing was, he interspersed his bullshit with just enough real, verifiable facts to make you question everything he says.

He came out with the Diamond story before it was confirmed that there was an as-yet-unaccounted-for rogue agent (went by the name "alpacino") who was better than any of the others at covering his/her tracks. So that lends credence to his story somewhat.

However, the embellishments about the personal threats etc, I think came straight from his very wild imagination

MrsPopoff10 karma

Can I ask a few questions?

  • Do you know what happened to the SR characters we don’t ever really hear about? People like Chemcat and Bruce? What about Backopy? ... Did anyone live happily ever after?

  • Do you think Ross will die in prison? As in, as an old man I mean. Or do you think reform could happen? (Speculate please!).

  • Do you ever write to people like Libertas or Mongoose or Ross? If so, How are they?

  • I remember you from 2011 I was just an interested observer of the SR forums I was way too timid and scared to ever get involved. But I really enjoyed your contributions and have bought a couple of your books. Well done for your work. 🌪🔥

OzFreelancer15 karma

Do you know what happened to the SR characters we don’t ever really hear about? People like Chemcat and Bruce? What about Backopy? ... Did anyone live happily ever after?

IIRC Chemcat did get arrested, though I may be wrong about that, and then came back to The Hub under a different 'nym. Bruce I suspect still pops up under different usernames hoping to cause havoc. I have it on good authority that Backopy is Europol's "one who got away"

Do you think Ross will die in prison? As in, as an old man I mean. Or do you think reform could happen? (Speculate please!).

I'm not American, so your system is incredibly foreign to me. There is absolutely no chance he would have received that sentence in the first place, or served it out in Australia or the UK. The US system seems far more sadistic and into revenge and punishment rather than any sort of rehabilitation

Do you ever write to people like Libertas or Mongoose or Ross? If so, How are they?

Libertas is doing okay, I haven't had any further contact with Mongoose and have never corresponded with Ross.

I remember you from 2011 I was just an interested observer of the SR forums I was way too timid and scared to ever get involved. But I really enjoyed your contributions and have bought a couple of your books. Well done for your work. 🌪🔥

Cheers. It was interesting times and a rocky start until I got endorsed by the Silk Road staff. After that, people were happy to talk to me

MrsPopoff1 karma

Thanks very much for the answers. Would love to know how Bakopy’s life turned out.

OzFreelancer6 karma

I'm interested too, but if he's smart we'll never find out

_noho10 karma

What’s your opinion on Ross Ulbricht’s prison sentence? Do you believe he should be freed from prison or at least give parole soon?

I personally do, but am not nearly as knowledgeable about the situation.

OzFreelancer26 karma

I believe it is manifestly excessive, and I think he was denied due process in his trial. There were so many things that would have muddied the waters that weren't allowed to be put to the court. The way they said they found the server was pure fantasy, and they most likely found it using illegal means.

rab777hp-4 karma

Is there a reason you just make these allegations without providing any proof of your own?

OzFreelancer14 karma

There are loads of people way more qualified than I am who have put up very convincing evidence that locating the server they way they said they did was like a 1-in-several-trillion chance. I understand the explicit method used didn't have to be divulged to the court for reasons of "national security"

phi_array7 karma

To what extend (if any) did darknet markets help the Bitcoin price to rise that fast? Right now people buy it to sell it later, but at some point, did these markets influence the price?

OzFreelancer21 karma

The Bitcoin purists hate to admit it, but Silk Road was absolutely instrumental in the growth of Bitcoin. It was the first truly solid use case for the currency. It was worth less than a dollar when Silk Road started and grew steadily (and exponentially) during its first couple of years of operation. Every time Silk Road got a mention in the press, Bitcoin would spike.

The correlation is no longer there, but there's no denying Silk Road pushed adoption much faster than would have occurred otherwise

redundantink6 karma

Hi Eileen!

Do you think lucydrop and Tony76 were the same person? Absent a confession from the individual(s) involved, what would one need to know to figure that out?

OzFreelancer20 karma

Oh yes indeed I do! In fact I think:

Tony76 Lucydrops RealLucydrops FriendlyChemis redandwhite Marijuanaismymuse James Ellingson

and possibly some others are all the same person

redundantink10 karma

If that is the case, then Ross Ulbricht fell hook, line, and sinker for quite a masterful exit scam.

What leads you to conclude that they were all the same person? I recall you being a lot more circumspect in your book on the Silk Road.

OzFreelancer13 karma

When I submitted my final manuscript on Silk Road, Ross had only just been arrested and all I had to go on was the Criminal Complaint against him (which was the first I or anyone else knew about the whole murder-for-hire biz). There wasn't time to unpack it all. Silk Road was published before Ross went to trial and a lot of what we know came out from there.

I expanded on it all a bit in The Darkest Web. Also the fact that someone was arrested and accused of being redandwhite, as well as MIMM (who previously wasn't even on the radar of that whole story) adds credence to the theory that it was one masterful scammer carrying out many different scams.

However, all still theory at this stage :)

Selipnir4 karma

I've got your books on my list to checkout from the library. Do you think with the Dark Web "coming to light" that there will be a Dark Web V2 of some kind will evolve and what that might look like? Do you think there will be a kind of splintering where groups start to close their doors more and become more selective and segregated with their members to keep out prying eyes?

OzFreelancer6 karma

I'm not sure I really understand the question.

The "dark web" is simply the colloquial name for what are technically called "hidden services". It is the collective name for the websites that can only be acessed via a darknet (such as Tor, I2P etc)

It's possible that some of the cryptography involved in providing hidden services may become more integrated into our browsers as people fight to reclaim their digital footprint, but that doesn't really have anything to do with the dark web itself

Selipnir3 karma

Sorry my terminology is terrible. As the hidden services become less hidden do you think the more illegal services will move to a more invite only style model or even change the way the services are accessed completely to better insulate themselves from law enforcement? I'm thinking along the line of needing a password to enter a speak easy during Prohibition that was given to you by a friend or a cover charge to enter a nightclub.

OzFreelancer6 karma

Well many sites (most notably the child exploitation sites, which often require you upload "fresh" material or proof you are abusing a child) already operate on that model. A few small drugs sites operate on an invite-only basis, as well as some of the hacker communities.

The large darknet markets on the other hand want as many customers as possible. They want to be easily found. They want to make the user experience as good as possible. They use standard marketing and advertising techniques to attract buyers to their site. The last thing they want is to make it more difficult for their customers to find them

nouveaugeorgian4 karma


OzFreelancer6 karma

I never saw anything like that, and I imagine that they may have caused some controversy or discussion in the forums, which I didn't see. I don't think they would have been banned if they had been on there, so it is possible they were.

TwitchStrangler3 karma

I read American Kingpin, is there anything new in The Darkest Web?

OzFreelancer5 karma

The part about darknet markets comes from a different perspective - American Kingpin (which is great) is the law enforcement narrative, whereas mine comes more from the perspective of owners and users of the markets. It's also only one part of the book - it goes deep into other aspects of the dark web as well (with a strong content warning for the third section, "Darkest"

Nujers3 karma

What first caused you to peruse the dark web?

Edit: Oh, and are you familiar with Darknet Diaries? Seems like /u/jackrhysider would be right up your alley.

OzFreelancer14 karma

I had a friend who was using Silk Road to have LSD and MDMA delivered, who showed it to me. I was immediately fascinated and never left, especially once it became my journalistic specialty

Very familiar with the most awesome Darknet Diaries and me and Jack are buddies :)

escaping_khaos3 karma

Not specifically related but how did you get into writing true crime books? Did you ever write fiction or did you always want to do non-fiction?

OzFreelancer2 karma

I really wanted to write fiction and that’s still my dream, but I fell into journalism, then got my book deal and the dark web became the thing I’m known for (and paid for). As far as jobs go, I could do a lot worse, so I’m not complaining

escaping_khaos2 karma

That makes sense. Do you have a genre of fiction you like writing?

OzFreelancer2 karma

I have series of both Thriller and Cozy Mystery outlined

LazarusCheetah3 karma

What are some really unusual transactions that you discovered on the Dark Web? Anything come to mind?

OzFreelancer6 karma

Honestly, it is mostly drugs, fraud items and child porn.

I wrote an article about some of the weird and wonderful things I foundwhen I was more of a curious dark web tourist back in the day

deafdaredevil2 karma

Hi, I'm a fan of your work and read your books. I think you should be on Joe Rogan. Would you?

OzFreelancer4 karma

Sure I would

goatmale1 karma

Where can I buy Blue Skies Black Death in the US? I read about it on the Casefile podcast which is by far my favorite podcast, truly a wild ride, and I believe it was referenced heavily in the episode.

Also, it seems like you've done work on Casefile, are you a fan as well?

OzFreelancer3 karma

I've taken down BSBD because it is going to be part of a larger book coming out soon called "Mishap or Murder?"

Yes, I love to listen to Casey on my morning walks! The only ones I always skip over are my own, coz I know how they end

TechnicalFuel21 karma

What are your favorite films of all time?

OzFreelancer9 karma

The Castle

The Blues Brothers

Pulp Fiction

Those are the ones that stand up to repeat viewings for me

LadyJekyll1 karma

Do you think Ross deserved the Kingpin charge despite the murders (almost definitely) not happening? Should there have been a lighter sentence that incorporated attempted murder? Also I adore your books, your research and knowledge is fantastic.

OzFreelancer25 karma

Look, the fact is, he did run an empire. A $200M drugs empire puts him in the "major player" category. And unlike many, although I was 100% supporter of him, I do believe he did order those hits. I have spoken to others involved in the conversations who confirmed that they happened. However, having said that, I think those charges were used cynically and maliciously, in the full knowledge that the would never and could never go to court. I find it kind of obscene that the evidence, especially of the corrupt agents (without the knowledge of the jury that those involved had been corrupt) could be led in court. When you realise that el Chapo was given a lighter sentence than Ross Ulbricht it is clear how absurd the whole situtation is

beetnemesis1 karma

Did you try any interesting/obscure drugs?

OzFreelancer2 karma

2CB was pretty obscure back then. Now it’s everywhere and super expensive

pete17291 karma

Was there a node of the system on Franklin avenue in New Orleans?

OzFreelancer3 karma

No idea

pete17291 karma

A few years ago a neighborhood place was raided a few blocks from me. The rumor was that it was part of the action against Silk Road.

OzFreelancer2 karma

It may have been. Arrests are still being made now that relate to Silk Road action

tightirl1-4 karma

Where can I go now that the silk road is no longer? Dm me!

OzFreelancer25 karma

The current largest darknetmarket is White House Market. I'm not going to DM you a link, if you can't find it yourself you have no business trying to buy drugs from the internet. You need to know how to use PGP and monero in order to buy from it.