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It has been hailed as the successor of notorious online drugs emporium Silk Road, but its creators say that it is all but invulnerable to the type of investigations that led to the demise of its predecessor.
DarkMarket, which took the $20,000 first prize at the Toronto Bitcoin hackathon, bypasses the possibility of its mastermind being caught by federal authorities… by having none.
The network is completely peer-to-peer, and for law enforcement agencies to eliminate it they would not be able to target one individual, as they did with alleged Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht. Instead, they would have to track down every single user.
Amir Taaki, one of the site's creators and co-founder of anarchist group Unsystem, told Wired, that there was an "arms race" on to make the successor to Silk Road.
"Like a hydra, those of us in the community that push for individual empowerment are in an arms race to equip the people with the tools needed for the next generation of digital black markets," he said.
Its developers claim that a Rube Goldberg machine of checks and balances is used to ensure that users don't cheat each other without requiring the oversight of a moderator or other systems of authority.
Otherwise, the site functions like Silk Road, with buyers and sellers able to communicate privately, pages where sellers can show their contraband, a ratings system for sellers, and a system that ensures bitcoin transactions are only received on receipt of goods.
The project though, is far from finished, with its creators tied up to other projects. However they have posted the code to allow other online black market enthusiasts to complete the project.
"This is just a simple prototype, but we wanted to show people that it's possible," Taaki says. "But this is going to happen. If not us, someone else will do it."