The Silk Road, an online marketplace for illegal drugs and other contraband, has returned to the net after being shut down by the US authorities in October.
The ‘re-launched’ site retains the same name and design as its predecessor, with the new owner even claiming the title of ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ – the pseudonym used by the previous owner.
As with the previous iteration of the site, ‘Silk Road 2.0’ can only be accessed through the anonymous Tor browser and carries out transactions using the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin. Drugs are purchased and then mailed to customers using the standard postal system.
The new site’s login features a version of the FBI’s take-down notice, with the words ‘This hidden site has been seized’ replaced by ‘This hidden site has risen again’. The new owner also claims that they have upgraded the security protocols that keep the site’s users safe from prosecution.
"I have taken steps the previous Dread Pirate Roberts wouldn't have even thought of so you may rest assured, you are in the hands of a technically competent expert,” wrote the Dread Pirate Roberts on the site’s rebooted forums.
"Our market is focused on higher security standards. We already have the team working around the clock on our market."
The Silk Road was originally launched in February 2011 and was shut down this October. The FBI arrested a 29-year-old named Ross Ublricht, charging him with operating the site, generating sales of more than $1.2 billion. Mr Ulbricht has so far denied all charges.
This week's re-launch was initially planned to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day on 5 November but was delayed for unknown reasons. A Twitter account operated by the new Dread Pirate Roberts posted a message saying “Better awesome and late than early and a disappointment”.
The same account also claims that the site now has “a doc on board” and that there are plans to introduce a free testing service for drugs.
The site’s return has so far been met with what has been described as ‘sceptical optimism’ by its regular users. The new owner has received endorsements from trusted moderators and espouses the same libertarian ethos as his predecessor.
“Silk Road is not one man,” writes Roberts. “Silk Road is an idea, and where Silk Road now lies is in the people who made it what it was and it is those people who will, with a little help, bring the idea back to life again under a new name.”
“As in the original market, we plan only to take the high road, that being nothing which intends to cause harm to another person […] Therefore weapons and assassinations contracts (which are both major scams anyway) are prohibited, just as child pornography," said Roberts in a forum post from 18 October.
“If we do not double the achievements of the first Silk Road, I would be extremely disappointed with myself.”