Caught In The Deep Web On Silk Road

Wow. I just watched Alex Winter’s new documentary, “The Deep Web.”

If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend you check it out now. Since you’re obviously online, it affects you and numerous rights that you hold assumed. The implications in this film are far-reaching and long-lasting.

It’s the story of the deep web and Ross Ulbricht, or as he was allegedly known on the Silk Road website, “Dread Pirate Roberts.” (As you may have imagined, the name was taken from the mythical Princess Bride character.) I don’t want to spoil the film for you but here are some key points to get you to check it out:

- Ross Ulbricht is an intelligent guy. He held multiple degrees, including a Master’s from Penn State, where he attended on a full scholarship.

- He supposedly started Silk Road to create a community for, probably among other reasons, to minimize the violence that is encountered through drug transactions and the overall “War on Drugs.”

- Through the forums on the Silk Road website, he wove a very clever political message and created a very large community with it.

- The story of Wired magazine senior editor, Andy Greenberg’s early correspondence with Ross on the Silk Road forums.

- Ross’s parents are interviewed extensively. Their presence sheds an interesting light on the dynamic of his family life. His sister is also featured.

The film shows some of the messages written by Dread Pirate Roberts, (aka, “DPR”) on the Silk Road website. “He” makes clear that Silk Road is not about drugs, or guns, or “sticking it to the man,” but more about freedom and citizen rights.

That does, however, contradict the fact that much of Silk Road ended up being about drugs, guns, and illegal activity. At least to those outside Silk Road. Additionally, while Ross was studying at Penn State, he became interested in Libertarianism.

This philosophical connection to DPR seems to thicken the plot a bit.

One of the initial challenges I think he will face regarding the public's opinion is the identity of the DPR character. Ross denies being DPR, but he was arrested in a public library in San Francisco with his laptop opened and confiscated while he was logged into the Silk Road website. With that evidence the government says Ross is DPR.

Ross admits starting Silk Road but denying being DPR with the government having his computer with all kinds of damning evidence (including a journal he supposedly kept of the whole Silk Road creation) may present a challenge in the court of public opinion.

According to the film, the judge that Ross faced in court significantly restricted the Defense’s ability to counter much of the evidence and witnesses presented by the prosecution. One of the most troubling aspects of the whole case is that the FBI never had to disclose how they -seemingly- hacked the Silk Road servers. They had no warrant so it seems as though they may have violated Ross’s 4th Amendment by what may be an illegal search and seizure. The Defense was not allowed to bring this matter up during the trial.

There is still tremendous mystery and fear surrounding the Deep Web. Ross Ulbricht's story is one of getting caught in the deep web while on the Silk Road paved with Bitcoins and the FBI hot on his trail for years. There is so, so much to this story and film. And it affects all of us. I highly encourage you to check it out.

Here it is on their website. Also on Hulu.

It’s a great film. And an important one. Whether you agree with the outcome of the trial or not, this is a Landmark Case and affects everyone in the world of Internet Privacy and our rights surrounding it.

Snowman

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Snowman

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