Deep Web – Documenting The Rise And Fall Of The Silk Road

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On May 31st, a documentary, entitled Deep Web, examining one of the most intriguing stories of modern age premiered on Epix.

We talk about deep web and dark web in detail  here

It tells a story of drugs and deceit, of anonymity and arrest, in short, the complex tale of the Silk Road marketplace.

An ambitious project by any standards, the documentary aimed to raise awareness of the gaping flaws and unanswered questions that surround the trial, conviction and subsequent life without parole sentence for Ross Ulbricht, who operated under the moniker Dread Pirate Roberts.

The documentary gets its expert interviews from various crypto-anarchists as well as from law enforcement officers, defense lawyers and journalists.

Narration for the documentary is provided by actor, and bitcoin enthusiast Keanu Reeves.

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It took his jury less than four hours to decide that Ross William Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts, the ruthless criminal mastermind at the heart of the Silk Road.

However, Deep Web, in just an hour and half, will make you question everything about that decision.

It cannot be denied that the documentary raises some very sharp points, and Joshua L. Dratel, Ulbricht’s chief defense attorney, features prominently in the documentary so as to raise these issues.

Dratel raises two key points in the documentary; first and foremost, he says that while Ulbricht may have created the Silk Road, he could not have been responsible for much of Dread Pirate Robert’s activity on it. In fact, he quotes an interview with a Silk Road vendor, who insisted that more than one person controlled Dread Pirate Roberts.

The defense was prevented from making this argument in court, which does make you question the trial’s validity.

He also questions the legality of the investigation, which is now known to have been swamped in corruption.

In particular he questions the events surrounding the seizing of the Silk Road server.

For him, the fact that the FBI refuse to answer questions about how they obtained and copied the server is grounds enough to suspect that it was obtained illegally and on these grounds has applied for a retrial.

When Deep Web focuses on these key points, its quality shines out through it, however, it is not without its flaws.

As Kate Knibbs of Gizmodo points out, its focus on Ulbricht’s likability is somewhat laughable.

The interviews with family and friends that talk about what a nice person he was, and how he wouldn’t hurt a fly (or bee as the documentary’s story goes) do little to aid his innocent image.

Despite this however, this is a powerful documentary with a powerful message.

The case of the Silk Road has captured the minds of many with very limited knowledge, or interest in the Deep Web, and for its ability to engage with these people alone, the documentary should be applauded.

While those more learned in the in the details of the case, may question some of the arguments made, it will still spark their interest.

For this I believe that IMDB’s rating of 7.3 is thoroughly deserved.

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