Mashable recently published a Q&A with an anonymous drug dealer who was operating on Silk Road, the massive online drug marketplace that was shuttered after the FBI arrested its proprietor earlier this week.
The interview, which Mashable says was conducted on Silk Road’s private messaging service, provides some interesting detail into what Silk Road was trying to accomplish – a service for people who were interested in buying and selling illegal drugs without the drug culture’s traditional gang and violence issues.
The subject of the interview, who went only by the alias “Angelina,” claims to have accomplished just that, and got involved with Silk Road not after selling drugs on the streets, but owning and selling a legitimate $2 million business of her own.
Angelina says she became interested in conducting business on Silk Road because it offered the opportunity to operate as a legitimate business in a massive, otherwise-untapped market.
“There is a market for people who are willing to go to dangerous neighborhoods to buy or sell drugs, risking law enforcement or violence,” she said in the interview. “But there is a much, much larger market for buyers and sellers who are less willing to take those risks but will open their wallets without concern from the comfort of their home.”
With customers looking for drugs that are provided in a legitimate fashion, Angelina said it’s only natural for the vendors to operate as such.
We are much less of a drug ‘dealer’ than you might think, and more of an Internet retailer. We receive orders, process them, pack them, ship them. Day after day after day. We negotiate deals to obtain product at good pricing, research shipping methods and materials, and spend a lot of time comforting nervous first-time buyers and tracking packages.
“It runs like a small Internet retailer/packing and shipping company. We use accounting software to manage our finances and we pay taxes. We've built an order management system to track our inventory and shipping. We had to build the order management tool with a significant level of built-in security — but that still let us get some visibility into how many days of inventory we have, whether business is up or down, where our costs are, etc.
“There is some division of duties to help with the load and provide some elasticity to our workforce since we can experience significant order volume fluctuations.
“As a day to day ‘job,’ it feels much like it might feel to work at any other Internet retail company.”
Although some used the opportunity afforded through Silk Road to turn drug dealing in to a legitimate business, other users took advantage of the site’s anonymity to pursue the same violence it was meant to prevent. The FBI’s report cited access to services for identity theft, access to weapons, and connections to hit men in its investigation into Silk Road dealings. The site’s proprietor himself is believed to have used Silk Road to order a murder-for-hire of another Silk Road member on at least one occasion.
Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter @ntwrkwrldneagle and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.