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Drugs & Health Blog

Web Robot Buys Drugs and Gets Busted

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A web robot is a type of software, and not nearly as cute as these.

The NIDA Blog Team

When Swiss police heard about a shipment of drugs delivered in the mail, they found an unlikely recipient: a web robot. And they arrested it (well, they took the computer with the software application into police custody). Three months later, the web robot was returned to the artists that created it.

The web robot (sometimes called a “bot”), Random Darknet Shopper, was made for an art exhibit in Switzerland. The artists gave it a weekly budget of $100 in Bitcoins (a form of digital currency) to randomly buy an item off a secret and anonymous network of websites, known as the Darknet or Dark Web. The items are then displayed as part of an art exhibit. Like many pieces of art, the purpose is to get people’s attention, spark conversation, and maybe stir up controversy. But the artists didn’t intend to have their web robot go to jail for its crime of buying illegal drugs.

In addition to the 10 pills of Ecstasy (MDMA or Molly), the web robot’s purchases also included sneakers, fake designer clothes, cigarettes, and a baseball cap with a hidden camera.

Police in Switzerland confiscated the bot and its purchases, but the artists eventually got all of them back—except for the Ecstasy, which was destroyed.

What Is the Darknet?

The Darknet, or Dark Web, is made up of a secret network of websites that aren’t found in Google. It’s where people share things without being tracked. Often it’s used for buying or selling illegal and dangerous materials, like drugs, stolen credit cards, weapons, etc. But, just because the sites are harder to find, doesn’t mean police don’t eventually find them—especially because those who control these sites don’t control the Postal Service.

The most notorious Darknet black market was Silk Road, which was used by thousands of drug dealers, according to the FBI. The FBI shut it down in 2013, and its creator is serving a life sentence in prison on drug and conspiracy charges. Authorities shut down a second version of the site, Silk Road 2.0, in 2014. That operation closed 27 black market sites on the Darknet.

New Technology, Same Old Risks

Buying drugs from an untraceable stranger on the Internet is not just illegal, it’s incredibly dangerous. The drugs can be mixed with dangerous chemicals, and unhappy customers have no way of getting their money back. And even though the risks are just as high with an in-person drug deal, with the Internet, there’s no one to complain to when things go wrong.

Tell us in comments: Should it be legal for web robots to buy drugs for the sake of art or science?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


i dont really think it should be
how is drugs so inmportant to teen and it just bad for them any way
not if its marijuana
that tells you theere is a problem.
I love weed
you love grass??
I think its better not too. it will prevent problems like this.
To prevent stuff like this happening i think they shouldn't. Then it would be dumb enough for someone to buy drugs from the internet. You cant rust people over the internet and expect to get it. They could put something in it or just rob your money and they wouldnt care. You might be putting youself in trouble too because sooner oe later they will find out.
why do you love weed
I think that it should be illegal because you shouldn't even trust someone over the Internet Anyways. You don't know what kind of drugs your receiving. More negative outcomes will only pop up then there is of postivs outcomes for this. If it's illegal all in general then they shouldn't have it legal over a website where you can also get hurt or robbed from any random stranger your getting from.
I think that it should be legal for the web robot to buy items off the DarkNet. As long as actual people aren't getting access to the illegal items and that it's being used for art to make a statement I think it's perfectly fine. If people were buying it and then putting it in a museum that's completely different. If the robot is randomly picking things to put up in the exhibit then that doesn't matter, because it may not even buy something illegal off the dark web. If its used for art or science in a responsible way I believe it should be allowed.
I belive that selling drugs on the darkweb is clever because you cant get caught, well its hard. But it is wrong because you never know what you could be getting and it can kill you and its illegal
This is bad and very dangerous to people.Also a risk because u dont know if your getting legit drugs.You can get other things that can hurt you or even kill you.Also if its this easy to get drugs on the internet imagine how easy is it on the street.This should be banned and shut down for good. H.A.S
people should not be able to buy drugs from of websites, because its definately not worth getting caught or harmed. people need to understand that it can be a scam, and get belongings or earnings stolen from them. eveeryone knows that some websites are not good, even if it lokks valid you still shouldnt think its right. many people are not trustworthy when it comes to buying things like this. you cant really trust someone that youve never seen before. anyone like this can scam people without caring, so stay on your toes.
I belive that selling drugs on the darkweb is clever because you cant get caught, well its hard. But it is wrong because you never know what you could be getting and it can kill you and its illegal [Commercial link removed per commenting policy]
no i dont think it should be legal for web robots to buy drugs off the internet, if they think that this is a controversy then they should legalize substances in general so that when you are of age you can purchase them without going onto the internet to buy them. -bill