By our third phone call, Steven Lloyd Sadler was a fugitive.
Facing federal charges for drug trafficking and distribution, Sadler decided he’d rather skip the trial and jail sentence altogether. He was pulling away from Seattle, where he was charged, and we talked for hours. He began that particular conversation on speakerphone, attempting to circumvent the state’s law prohibiting the use of cellphones while driving, but noisy interference forced him to pick up the call.
He shrugged as he put his phone to his ear, his other hand taking a firm grip on the wheel.
“I hope I don’t get pulled over.”
I’d spent hours talking to Sadler, one of Silk Road’s most popular heroin and cocaine dealers, before and after he made the decision to run. By late October, he was out on bond, seemingly as a reward for helping Homeland Security in a larger investigation into the infamous Deep Web black market.
The conditions of the bond were clear: Sadler wasn’t allowed leave the state of Washington. He was also strictly forbidden from dealing or using drugs.
“Hold on,” he cut in at one point. “I have to buy some cocaine, can I call you back?”
Five minutes later, he was back on the line, as chatty as ever.
At the time, there was no clear direction forward. Maybe he’d go to Las Vegas on a wild bender. Maybe he’d try to start his drug empire over in Los Angeles. Maybe he’d visit old friends in his hometown who didn’t know about his criminal enterprise.
Sadler talked through each potential scenario, as if working through them in his mind, looking for possibilities and pitfalls. In roughly 10 hours of phone calls over the course of several weeks, Sadler told me almost everything.
Then he dropped off the grid.
A new study, reported at the Daily Dot.
There are many ways to measure success. For a Deep Web black market famous for its wide selection of drugs, one number trumps all: How many drug users put your product in their bodies?
Silk Road, the recently shut down black market that ruled them all, was enormous. According to a new study titled “Use of Silk Road, the online drug marketplace, in the UK, Australia and the USA,” 18 percent of American drug users got high thanks to Silk Road. This is the first big study of a large sample of drug users who have bought from the Deep Web.
The study was just published in Addiction, a peer-reviewed scientific journal and one of the world’s most influential scientific publications focusing on drugs and psychiatry.
Across a survey of 9,470 respondents in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, the study by the Australian trio of Monica Barratt, Jason Ferris, and Adam Winstock found that Silk Road penetrated most deeply in America. 65 percent of Americans had heard of Silk Road while 18 percent had used drugs bought on the site. 40 percent of British respondents had heard of it and 10 percent had used drugs from it—which is to say, across these two countries, a full quarter of all people who had heard of Silk Road said they’ve used drugs from it.
Even though dozens of black markets have come and gone since the original Silk Road fell, few have tried anything new. Virtually all of them have cloned the original in nearly every way, selling themselves to the public on the idea that it was only Ross Ulbricht’s personal mistakes that brought down the empire.
A new group believes there’s a different path to take toward black-market nirvana.
One surviving black market is doing something fundamentally different than its competitors.
Instead of relying solely on the Tor anonymizing network, a new site called “The Marketplace” can be found only on I2P, an anonymizing network launched in 2003 that exists separately from Tor.
A look at the way “The Marketplace” looks to change Deep Web black markets at the Daily Dot.
Hi, I’m Patrick Howell O’Neill, the guy behind Weirder Web. I write full time at the Daily Dot now. You can also follow me at @chobopeon or visit my site at patrickhowelloneill.com. While it’s plausible that Weirder Web will once again become a central focus in the future, I do all my work at the Daily Dot now.
Note: I will keep posting all the relevant work here so you don’t have to update or follow anything you don’t want to.
In related news, a big new piece is coming up very soon. I’m excited to have you all read it. Talk to you soon.