Estimated reading time: 1 minutes
This was playing fast and loose with the truth.
The deep web is an unindexed, “hidden” area of the internet, accessible only through Tor (an open source, anonymous, largely untraceable version of Firefox). This documentary takes a look at the rise and fall of one such deep web site, Silk Road, an underground market of illegal substances (from heroine to LSD) all paid for by bitcoin.
The documentary focuses on the hunt for, arrest and trial of Ross Ulbricht, a 29-year old who was supposedly the mastermind behind the Silk Road marketplace, but it also raises a few important questions, the most pertinent of which: “How did the FBI manage to find Silk Road’s servers?” This was a pivotal step in the investigation, and without an answer being brought to light no-one can know for sure if Ross’ fourth amendment rights were broken.
Ross was originally charged with money laundering, hacking, and attempting to procure murders under the name “Dread Pirate Roberts”. The murder charges were later dropped, but not before tarnishing the jury that would later have to pass judgement on whether Ross was guilty of the charges brought against him.
The documentary attempts to discuss a wealth of issues regarding surveillance and anonymity online while painting Ross as a victim of the FBI (and cyber surveillance). The director’s core points are that Ross might not have been working alone, and that he, while an ideologist, was a peaceful man. I, too, believe that the way Ross’ case was treated was shady (at best) but let us not kid ourselves: it is not at all hard to see how a peaceful ideologist can get more radical and turn towards violence if it meant the proliferation of his ideas and concepts.
The documentary does achieve its goal of getting the viewer to ask questions about the world we inhabit today, but it falls a little short of convincing anyone that Ross is truly innocent.