An illegal website, ‘Silk Road’, is providing drug users with an alternative to the sordid, late night meetings on street corners that was traditionally the business of drug dealing. The website branded by The Daily Mail as ‘the eBay for drugs’ was set up in February of last year. It allows users to enjoy the luxury of buying drugs online, from the safety of their own home.
Silk Road operates its own ‘compare the market’ style system, in which users can compare drug prices and rate dealers. However, as with most internet shopping, an express style browse, click and pay is all it takes for frequent users to purchase drugs on Silk Road.
Among the drugs sold on Silk Road are Class A drugs: Cocaine, Heroine and Ecstasy. So how are they getting away with it? The website uses the programme ‘Tor’, which allows all members – whether buyers or sellers – to remain anonymous. Once the orders are placed, Royal Mail have been delivering the disguised packages to customers, unaware of the contents. This has lead to the site successfully making an annual £14m in sales worldwide.
The appeal of Silk Road is obvious. Users describe it as ‘easier’ than face-to-face meetings, with a ‘decent community’ of ‘intelligent’ users selling good ‘quality’ produce. A 30 year old DJ from Brighton believes it is a ‘no-brainer’ that drug users are more and more frequently buying online, than meeting dealers they don’t know out on the streets.
However support from drug users does not legitimise Silk Road. The anonymity of identity on the site leaves users without knowing who or what they’re dealing with. A spokesperson from drugs charity CRI warns that online purchasing of drugs adds a new, dangerous element to the black market of drug dealing. ‘You don’t know what you’re buying or what it’s been cut with (and that) exposes people to a high level of risk’.
Royal Mail, Sussex Police and A spokesperson from the Home Office have issued statements insisting they were unaware of the practice, and each are in the process of taking the necessary actions to put a stop to drugs being disguised and delivered from online sources.