Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a double life sentence for operating a website. Before Bitcoin became the newest tech and investment craze, it was seen as the currency of the black market which was used to buy and sell drugs on the infamous “dark web.” In fact, Ulbricht was one of the early adopters of Bitcoin and he created one of the first websites that popularized the cryptocurrency, called The Silk Road.
The Silk Road was an anonymous online marketplace that became a target for politicians and law enforcement because of the large volume of drugs that were being sold through the site. On the Silk Road, drug users and vendors were able to trade anonymously using Bitcoin, making it one of the first major commerce platforms to adopt the cryptocurrency.
Even though Ulbricht did nothing but create a website—just like the famous billionaires Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos—he was treated like El Chapo in court because his invention worked against the system, instead of for it.
One important point that was heavily overlooked by the media during the Ulbricht trial was the fact that the Silk Road actually made the world a safer place by undermining prohibition. Even though drugs are illegal, large numbers of people still use them on a regular basis and these people are often put into dangerous situations because of these prohibitions.
The Silk Road allowed people to purchase drugs from the comfort of their living room to avoid the risk of getting mugged in a dark alleyway. It also allowed them to read reviews of the products that their potential dealer was selling, saving them from tainted drugs and dirty batches that could put their lives at risk.
Ulbricht should have gotten the Nobel Prize for his visionary application of a new and revolutionary technology, but instead, he was arrested in October 2013 and has been sitting in federal prison ever since, awaiting a break in his case, or the end of the drug war.