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A word from one of the Silk Road “Old Guard”

There’s nothing like an inaccurate, poorly-written, unresearched defamatory piece of garbage journalism to bring people out of the woodwork. So I have to thank one Ms Margi Murphy for this laughably bad piece of trash

Dark Webz downloading heroin into your children's veins & filming them necked!
Dark Webz downloading heroin into your children’s veins & filming them nekkid before killing them!

I often lament the loss of Silk Road (v.1.0). I was so entrenched in that  place, spending hours a day in the forums as I wrote my book, blogging about the shenanigans as they happened and shooting shit with other members. Losing it felt like losing friends. Whilst more people than ever before are buying drugs online from the darknet markets, none of those markets have the sense of community, purpose and camaraderie as the original.

Although they no longer all gather in one place, I’ve kept in touch with several of the old guard. Some I now know by real name (high-profile arrests and all ) and others I still know only by their handles.

One with whom I’ve stayed in touch constantly, albeit sporadically, is Guru. Guru taught me PGP back in the day, patiently taking me through all the security issues associated with using a Mac, and advising how best to talk to and interview users of Silk Road without compromising their safety (my identity under the OzFreelancer handle was never a secret). He later had a brief stint on the staff (volunteer, unpaid forum moderator) back when we all thought the Road would be around forever, but that ended in a disagreement with DPR. Guru, unlike others, never provided ID to Silk Road’s founder.

He remains active on some darknet forums, still offering sage advice, but has mostly been content to let his alter-ego fade from memory.

Until Margi Murphy’s piece. So incensed was Guru at the lies and misinformation in that piece, he penned an eloquent letter to the author. Here’s what Guru had to say (reprinted with his permission):

From: Guru <Guru@[REDACTED]
To: margi.murphy@express.co.uk
Subject: Inaccuracies in May 17th Daily Star Silk Road article
Date: Wed, 25 May 2016 01:19:37 +0100 (BST)

Dear Ms. Murphy:

I am writing to you about your recent article dated May 17th, 2016 in the DailyStar.co.uk, on the latest purported incarnation of Silk Road, a link to which article was found on your Twitter feed (shown below).

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 11.32.50 am

To say that this article was both poorly written — and even more poorly researched — would be an understatement. I know from personal experience that the original Silk Road prohibited child pornography — because I served as a volunteer moderator on the original Silk Road Forum from the beginning of August 2012 through to the beginning of December 2012, when I quit the site.

I was given explicit instructions by DPR (Dread Pirate Roberts) himself that Silk Road had a zero-tolerance policy for child pornography. Anyone found promoting these types of materials was subject to both an immediate ban, as well as having all of their posts deleted. During my time as moderator, I was personally responsible for deleting several posts of this type, and also banning the posters that made them.

Now, you don’t have to believe _me_ — you don’t have to take _my_ word for  it.

The United States Attorneys for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) invested an enormous amount of time, energy and money putting their case against Ross Ulbricht together. This should not be surprising, as the Silk Road case was the very first of its kind, and the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting this case knew that it would be precedent-setting, even historic.

As such, they pulled out all the stops in an effort to obtain a conviction. In light of the above, does it not strike you as odd that that the American authorities never raised — EVEN ONCE — the subject of child pornography?

I would argue that if there were _any_ evidence whatsoever pointing to the trafficking (or attempted trafficking) of child pornography on Silk Road, that the prosecution would simply NOT have failed to adduce this at trial.

The reason for this should be obvious — any evidence of this nature would have made a conviction virtually certain, so profound would the negative impact of any such evidence be on a jury. As such, it is scarcely credible that Messrs. Bhahara and Turner would have neglected to raise at trial the subject of the promotion or trafficking of child pornography on Silk Road, if it were at _all_ a valid issue.

As much as I may personally despise Mr. Preet Bhahara and Mr. Serrin Turner, they left no stone unturned in the case preparation against Mr. Ulbricht — their research was very thorough (unlike yours, it would seem).

Furthermore, among the inaccuracies in your May 17th article are various references to “silkroad.org” or “silkroadorg” as the alleged source of some of the photos and graphics appearing in your article. For what it’s worth, there is _NO_ blog at silkroad.org, let alone one that expounds on Darknet drug markets. Silkroad.org has nothing whatsoever to do with any of various and sundry Darknet Marketplaces that may have called themselves “Silk Road”.

Silkroad.org is actually owned by Diana Chambers, a novelist and travel writer — she has owned this domain since December, 1996. (She also has a site at: dianarchambers.com). To be honest, it would appear that you didn’t even take so much as 30 seconds to carry out a simple whois query on the silkroad.org site, or you would have known this already.

This begs the question: “Did you do _any_ original research whatsoever for this article at all, or did you simply make things up out of whole cloth?”

To be frank, Ms. Murphy, this article sets a new journalistic low, even for a tabloid newspaper like the Daily Star.

Frankly, I was incredulous when I scanned your bio, and found therein that you were a former senior reporter at Techworld, and that you claim to have worked for two years for Computerworld.co.uk — if true, did you learn *nothing* at all in the time that you worked for these publications?

You certainly didn’t appear to learn anything at all about investigative journalism — especially with respect to source validation or fact-checking — during the month you spent as an intern at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, did you? (By all appearences, that would seem to be the case.)

Frankly, this article is _so_ bad, that it would not pass muster if turned-in by a first year undergrad journalism student, in their first semester, let alone from someone who purports to possess a Masters’ level degree in Journalism from City University’s Investigative Journalism MA program.

On your Twitter account, through the FreeRoss.org twitter account owned and operated by the Ulbricht family, they have asked you to have a correction printed — that would be the right and proper thing to do, not to mention the act of a decent human being.

The Ulbricht family have already suffered enough without having to bear any more false, even libelous, statements made about their son.

As my final word, you may wish to consider the potential negative impact of your false, totally unfounded assertions on Ross Ulbricht himself. When you stated flat-out, that the original Silk Road “sold child porn” you have directly accused Ross Ulbricht of association with this vile practise.

In prison systems the world over, child pornographers and child abusers are considered the “lowest of the low” and are _so_ despised that frequently, they have to be kept in segregation, or even in solitary, so they will not be killed by the other prisoners.

Some prisoners have access to online news sites, and one of them just might get it in his head, based on your false assertions, that Ross is some type of child molester, or that he at the very least, aided and abetted child sexual abusers. Prisoners have been shanked for less!

Guru 

Sadly, neither Ms Murphy nor her editor had the manners to respond or even acknowledge receipt of this letter and the crappy article remains.

Thus the usually private Guru’s response to my request to run it here: ‘Go ahead and publish it. I never did get an answer from the author or the publisher, so let ’em take their lumps in public — they deserve ’em.’

 

7 Responses

  1. Not tryna be a stickler but “constantly, albiet sporadically” is very contridictory. I understand the message provayed, but constantly wasn’t the best word choice in my opinion.

    1. You are correct in my misuse of the word constantly, However, you failed in not trying to be a stickler, because everything that came afterwards was the epitome of sticklerishness

  2. It’s the Daily Star so no surprises for such a piece of utter tabloid fictional rubbish however Guru raises a valid point about such slanderous reporting putting peoples lives in danger. Murphy should be utterly ashamed to put her name to such an article but maybe she is one of ‘those’ journalists who has little interest in the truth and is only interested in punting sensationalist crap to gullible readers.

  3. That’s really too bad that they would slander him like that (although I’m not really surprised). Although there are many terrible things on the dark web, I still think it gets misrepresented constantly (as if it’s nothing *but* bad and illegal things). In my experience, it’s a big mixture, but the tabloids love to play up the worst parts. Am I wrong?

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