Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, half a decade and 100,000 signatures later

The crypto community is libertine, candid, permissive. Wish to imbibe your way through life, slamming heroin while snorting cocaine, be our guest. Want to sell your ass to the highest bidder, go for it, Jack.

Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, half a decade and 100,000 signatures later

There’s something about acts of privacy, the secrecy baked-in to cryptography, that leaves the ecosystem comfortable with others doing things we’re not exactly thrilled about endorsing in the personal sense. At the root of crypto as currency is the ability to make cash an instrument of caprice, whim, desire, subjectivity.

Humility seems to be in the cryptocurrency ethical melange as well. The ecosystem has plenty of opinions, and on about every topic imaginable. All the good and shittyness of any given society finds its way into crypto, for sure. The difference between it and other forms of money issued by bodies with legal monopolies on violence is we cannot force folks to use our version. This can lead to an orientation of leaving people alone because we must, but it also encourages doing so because we simply do not know what is best for them. They’re left to make their own decisions, for better or worse.

Nascent

And so it was with all this in mind, a young Ross Ulbricht helped create the notorious underground marketplace Silk Road. It was an ideological move. Forget the goings-on within the site for now, and understand Ulbricht did this on purpose. Dark or deep web sites were nothing new. Lots already existed.

Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, half a decade and 100,000 signatures later

Instead, it was a chance to merge at least two technologies within a firm philosophical grounding. Bitcoin, then the plaything of cypherpunks, themselves very ideological, was still finding a use case, something to prove its viability as a peer-to-peer electronic cash. And since legacy payment systems, credit cards and their less friction involved sister platforms such as PayPal, involve lacks of privacy, bitcoin might be an attractive alternative for an online bazaar.

Bitcoin was enticing tech because it allowed a digital form of pseudo anonymity in the paper money sense. Silk Road, the eBay of products and services run afoul of government prohibitions, married the nascent tech with a Tor-laden, privacy zealous community in dire need.

Silk Road

Ulbricht’s insight was merging crypto with overt, radical free marketism. Silk Road brought buyers and sellers together, each allowed to be as open and transparent as they’d like. There’s plenty of anecdotal study to suggest Bitcoin thrived under such an arrangement, signaling to early adopters cryptocurrency was for real. Everyone was watching.

And, sure enough, Ross Ulbricht’s arrest sent the price into free fall, confirming as much. The evidence, however, was impossible to deny: it was too late for those who might’ve hoped the crypto experiment would die by sending Ulbrichts of the world a nasty message.

The community divided over what it all meant, and still does although less so now. Some blanched at the idea Silk Road could be credited with jump-starting crypto. Great, they outwardly lamented, now we’re forever tied to drugs and scofflaws—no one will ever take us seriously.

Ross Ulbricht

Maybe they were right. Certainly mainstream press outlets ran with the narrative, and it has been hard to shake this reputation. I’ll concede that right away. But crypto enthusiasts have to know better ultimately.

Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, half a decade and 100,000 signatures later

Again, we’re agnostic on prohibition and petty legalisms. Bitcoin and the broader world Satoshi Nakamoto gave intellectual birth to is and was an illegal endeavour on its face. If crypto zealots are going to use government laws of their barometer for what is right and wrong, stop using crypto right now and return to fiat.

There’s plenty to speculate about Ross Ulbricht. The murder for hire trope is tossed around loosely and rarely followed up upon (charges were dropped). That he was something of a monster fits well with the overall storyline, but it is not true. Click over to FreeRoss.org, and have a look around. Obviously, it’s a site keen on defending him, but at least readers know that going-in and can account for bias. Agents involved in his arrest and conviction were themselves sent to prison for direct wrongdoing in his case—and that’s just one twist rarely given attention.

Clemency petition

He’s a compelling fellow, and at worst he provided an online market where people were able to meet in relatively safety. He’s now serving a double-life sentence without the possibility of parole. From my understanding, his appeals and legal challenges have exhausted all the way through a U.S. Supreme Court remand. That part of the case appears to be over.

Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, half a decade and 100,000 signatures later

As a last ditch effort his mother and supporters launched at Change.org petition, asking President Trump to grant Ross Ulbricht clemency. Online signatures recently passed 100,000 thousand, and more can only mean better. For all his perceived ills, Trump has shown a remarkable sensitivity to a few incarcerated cases and a willingness to act. Crazier things have happened.

On January 13, 2015 in New York City.

He’s crypto’s first real martyr. Lay the facts out for yourself. Chew them over. The realization of what he’s suffering versus the crimes committed do not mesh. I believe our world would be a much better place if Ross Ulbricht was out of prison and allowed to create and build with us. It’s only a digital signature, and won’t take long. It’s a small gesture that could lead to a man’s life being spared. Thanks for even considering.

Edward Kelso is a financial technology journalist based in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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‘Railroaded’ debuts marking Ross Ulbricht’s 5 years behind bars

The alleged founder of dark web marketplace Silk Road has marked five years in prison, after being handed a double life sentence with no chance of parole.

Ross Ulbricht began his sentence on October 1, 2013, after being charged with a litany of offences relating to the marketplace, which was predominantly used for illegal transactions, including alleged drug trafficking on an industrial scale.

The marketplace, which was predominantly powered by BTC transactions, was taken down by authorities in the same month, the first of several similar markets to have been tackled by the FBI and other law enforcement authorities.

FreeRoss.org, a campaign group led by Ulbricht’s family and supporters, have launched a new project to raise awareness of the case. “Railroaded” is a six-part series that seeks “to accurately present the available evidence surrounding the creation, investigation and shutdown of Silk Road, and the prosecution of Ross Ulbricht.”

On the website, the group stated, “October 1 marks five years that Ross has been imprisoned…On this unhappy anniversary, we’re launching a new project revealing many surprising details about Ross’ case, unknown to most people. You can read or listen to the first episode now. There are six weekly episodes that will take you through the labyrinthine maze of this outrageous case, so stay tuned.”

A spokesperson from the group said Ross’s sentence was disproportionate, particularly in light of his personal character.

“Although five years in prison would harden many, it is not true of Ross. Throughout his long ordeal he has remained a positive force and is liked by inmates, guards and prison staff alike. True to his values of peace and non-violence, Ross recently refused to take part in an assault on another inmate,” according to the group. “This defiance made him a target and he was put in solitary protective custody, where he is today. He could have avoided this hardship but wasn’t willing to hurt someone else. Yet the judge ruled that Ross was so dangerous that she condemned him to die in prison.”

Ulbricht’s case was appealed as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately rejected his petition. Family and supporters have since raised a petition, securing over 85,000 signatures calling for President Trump to extend clemency to Ross in the circumstances.

As of today, Ulbricht remains in prison, as he begins the sixth year of his double life term.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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French agent accused of peddling state secrets on dark web for crypto

A security officer in France is accused of selling confidential state information on the dark net, according to local media reports.

On Friday, French news outlet Le Parisien described the officer as a member of a sensitive division of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure (DGSI). The agent allegedly minted information to which he had access to, as well as potentially falsified administrative documents, which he sold on the dark web.

Sources close to the investigation told the news outlet there was evidence that the agent had been in contact with members of the organized crime world as well as “specialists of the economic intelligence” who were interested in obtaining such data. No link to terrorism has been found, according to the report.

Agents from the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police were the first to discover the leaks. This prompted the DGSI to use the agent’s personal code—which they use to connect to computers and perform consultations—to track his online activities. Internal security processes allow the authorities to trace the origin of file queries either in real time or in delayed manner.

Following the agent’s arrest, L’Office central pour la répression de l’immigration irrégulière et de l’emploi d’étrangers sans titre (Ocriest)—the agency in charge of monitoring “irregular immigration”—shut down the criminal network the suspect had been linked to, according to Le Monde.

It is not yet known how much information was sold or how much crypto the agent received. Data considered classified as “confidential defense” or “secret defense” within the DGSI, are punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of €100,000 ($115,393) if violated by any state agent.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (segwit) Chain are Referred to as BTC coins. Bitcoin Cash (BCH) is today the only Bitcoin implementation that follows Satoshi Nakamoto’s original whitepaper for Peer to Peer Electronic Cash. Bitcoin BCH is the only major public blockchain that maintains the original vision for Bitcoin as fast, frictionless, electronic cash.

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