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DHS Subpoenas Reddit For Identities Of Darkweb Drug Forum Users

Users of illegal online marketplaces took another hit Monday after news broke that Reddit, a popular online message board, had been subpoenaed by the Baltimore Department of Homeland Security for personal details of users who engaged in conversations about buying and selling illegal drugs.

Andy Greenberg of WIRED reported that federal agents are demanding Reddit turn over the personal data of five prominent members of a subreddit called Darknet Markets, which is used to discuss ways to buy and sell drugs online.

The subpoena asks for names, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and other information about the anonymous users, most of which Reddit doesn’t possess or even require upon registration.

According to its privacy policy, Reddit stores IP information about comments, posts, and messages on the website for 90 days, so if it complies with the subpoena, it is likely this is the only information Reddit has to offer.

Earlier this month, in an apparent scam, a popular darknet market used for selling illegal drugs, weapons and stolen financial documents vanished overnight, with its creators absconding with millions of dollars worth of bitcoin belonging to users of the underground marketplace.

The subpoena of the Reddit users’ information appears to be connected with this incident, as all of those subpoenaed had recently used the message board on Reddit to discuss what happened to the now-defunct marketplace, called Evolution, and claimed personal knowledge about those involved with running the illegal market.

Evolution became one of the most popular websites used for online drug sales after the Silk Road marketplace was shut down and its supposed leader arrested by the FBI in 2013 on charges involving narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering.

One of the redditors subpoenaed, security researcher Gwern Branwen, posted a PSA in the Darknet Markets subreddit explaining the subpoena and its implications for the online sale of illegal drugs.

“I assume the main goal here is the IPs,” Branwen said. He added that Reddit may have phone numbers for billing information related to advertising or its premium service, called Gold, though it isn’t likely any of the users subpoenaed handed over that information.

Branwen also told WIRED he thinks news of the subpoena will most likely discourage further discussion of illegal markets on public forums like Reddit.

“Riskier discussions will move onto the Hub (an encrypted drug market discussion board), and as long as the Reddit admins don’t get spooked and shut it down similar to /r/jailbait, [r/darknetmarkets] will remain a useful discussion place,” he told the website.

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