I’m sure by now many of you have heard about Silk Road. It is the anonymous marketplace. It is the Amazon.com for all things illegal. And as anarchist activists we owe it to ourselves to at least understand its potential and browse its goods and services. I am going to give you the directions to Silk Road. I am also going to tell you where it leads.
Silk Road is not easy to get to, for various reasons. If you want to get there you are going to have to anonymize yourself online first. This is something you should have done a while ago as a self-respecting anarchist. If you haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to do so then we need to play some quick catch-up. There are two main ways to anonymize yourself online, Tor and VPN’s. Both have their pros and cons. To connect to Silk Road, however, only Tor will do.
Although Tor is amazing technology and continues to improve over time, it is not fail safe. To be sure, nothing is. This is why I encourage you to take every necessary precaution you can to protect yourself while online. I have said it before and I will continue to say it; if you are running a Windows operating system you need to switch to Linux. The future is open-source software and the sooner you make it your way of life the better off we will all be.
Even though I highly recommend running Linux full-time when online, it is not necessary in order to visit Silk Road. But you will need Tor. The full installation of Tor, however, can be confusing, especially for non-techies. Fortunately, running Tor has now been made extremely easy with the advent of Tor Browser. Simply follow the directions pertaining to your operating system and you will be running Tor in moments.
Once you have Tor running successfully you will need to direct your browser to the Silk Road URL. There you should be able to create an anonymous profile. But when you do so, please choose a username and password that you have never used before. It is better to be safe than sorry when visiting the internet’s red light district. [Editor's Note: As of December 2011 it seems that Silk Road has changed its address. Please visit the supposedly new Silk Road URL. Update: Silk Road has decided to remove the sale of weapons from the site and moved it to a new location called The Armory. Second Update: The Armory has been closed for lack of a healthy market.]
After you finish creating your profile you should be able to browse through a wide selection of illegal goods and services. For many people, myself included, this may be as close as they will come to trading in the first online free-market. If, however, you are eager to buy and sell on Silk Road, you will have to come into possession of Bitcoins. Although I have been, and continue to be, critical of the Bitcoin currency, I must admit that it has been an amazing facilitator of trade in the online black market, and for that I am happy to be wrong. Again, if you are going to start trading in Bitcoins you are far safer doing so on a Linux operating system. [Editor's Note: I no longer dislike Bitcoin and am actually a huge proponent of the alternative currency. Read I Was Wrong About Bitcoin to understand why I changed my mind.]
So, now that you know how to get to Silk Road I encourage you to do so, but with the utmost safety in mind. Silk Road, and its future competitors, will come under severe attack in the coming years. At the moment, the goods and services to be found on Silk Road are limited. But this is only because it is in its infancy. While psychedelic drugs and fully automatic rifles may seem wonderfully shocking at the moment, we must not limit our imaginations.
I fully suspect that other, more revolutionary, services will come about in time. Surely, professional assassins will offer their services as well. I believe this could open the door to contracts being put out on the lives of corrupt politicians, judges and police officers. After all, the idea of assassination markets has been floating around in anarchist circles for some time. Regardless of whether or not you condone violent insurrection against the state or state officials, these markets seem to me to be very likely to happen in the near future.
What other goods and services do you think are likely to pop up in an anonymous marketplace? I would love to read your ideas below.