The VICE Channels

    «The Darknet. From Memes to Onionland». ​Image: ​!MEDIENGRUPPE BITNIK

    The Best Things a Random Bot Bought on the Dark Net

    Written by

    DJ Pangburn


    When people think of the darknet, they often think of buying drugs. But there's a lot more out there, and all it takes is a random shopping bot with a budget to find it.

    On January 11th, the art collective !Mediengruppe Bitnik wrapped up The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland, an exhibition for items purchased by their Random Darknet Shopper, a botnet that scoured the darknet for miscellaneous goods, which it bought and sent to the artists. The exhibition ran at The Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, located about an hour east of Zürich, Switzerland, and featured items purchased by the Random Darknet Shopper.

    As Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo, theLondon-based Swiss artists behind !Mediengruppe Bitnik, noted on the project website, Random Darknet Shopper (RDS) is an automated online shopping bot they provided with a budget of $100 in bitcoins per week.

    Once a week, RDS went on a shopping spree on the Agora marketplace, which the duo say had some 16,000 listings when they got their bot started. Sometimes it was thrifty, other times it was a big spender. Curiously enough, Weisskopf and Smoljo told the Guardian that they weren't scammed once. If this sounds like Darius Kazemi's Random Shopper, which worked on Amazon, it's pretty much the same concept.

    The full list of purchased items is available on !Mediengruppe Bitnik's website. But, below are a selection of Random Darknet Shopper's purchases, which range from the curious and absurd to the illegal and mind-bending.

    The Lord of the Rings Collection E-book


    In one of the more amusing purchases, Random Darknet Shopper bought the e-book version of The Lord of the Rings Collection. The e-book sold for 0.00242706 BTC, which converts to 57 cents in US dollars. What Random Darknet Shopper teaches us here is that some vendors must be selling their wares in bulk, because J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy trilogy just isn't putting food on their table on its own.

    Ecstasy 10x Yellow Twitter 120MG MDMA


    Shortly after pulling off the Lord of the Rings steal, Random Darknet Shopper fetched ten 120mg Yellow Twitter MDMA pills from a German vendor named Snapback. The vendor, for his part, boasted that the pills were famous on other Tor drug sites, and were totally pure “with no bullshit inside." Judging by customer feedback, Snapback sells the real goods. Lesson? Random Darknet Shopper knows how to choose its drugs well.

    Spy Gear


    On December 11th, Random Darknet Shopper bought some spy gear; specifically a Mini DV/DVR video cap recorder with .mp3 and Bluetooth functionality.

    “Have you ever wondered how would it be if you could record your eyesight? Memories, meetings, scams, parties, trips, etc.,” wrote the vendor, optiman, in grammatically-mangled English. “Have you ever wanted to record something without anyone knows or suspects? Have you ever regret that you couldn't record something important or special? Use the hidden camera cap with the remote control, its easy to use and very useful.”

    Optiman's sales pitch must have worked on Random Darknet Shopper. And how ironic given that all of this went down on a Tor site, where an anti-surveillance ethos abounds.

    Chesterfield Cigarettes


    For some reason that will never be known to humans, Random Darknet Shopper had a thing for Chesterfield cigarettes. A parcel of 10 packs of cigarettes arrived from of all places Moldavia, while another package of Chesterfields originated in Ukraine. The big takeaway here is that Chesterfields seem to be a popular black market item in Eastern Europe.

    Sprite Drug Stash Can


    Random Darknet Shopper's purchase of the Sprite Stash Can has to be one of the most hilarious, if only because we now know that the surveillance tools vendor, optiman, is also crafting stash cans and selling them on the Darknet. !mediengruppe Bitnik criticized optiman for taking a month to deliver the parcel, but, hell, it looks pretty nifty. Will it work? Only the daring will ever know.