An Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent has subpoenaed reddit to learn more information about five users who frequent the subreddit r/darknetmarkets – an active chat room for issues pertaining to dark market websites.
Special Agent Michael McFarland issued the subpoena on March 11, 2015, asking for information on these five reddit users:
- EVOSMITH (evosmith)
- NSWGREAT (NSWGreat)
- Z-L (z-l)
- GWERN (Gwern)
- DEEPTHROAT_ (DeepThroat_)
According to a post written by Gwern and posted on r/darknetmarkets, all five users were likely targeted as a result of their connections to the dark marketplace Evolution.
Evolution was the dark web’s top market until a few weeks ago, when the site abruptly vanished, along with $12 million worth of Bitcoin.
Three of the subpoenaed users—evosmith, z-l, and DeepThroat_—were “just 3 of the legion of trolls and scammers and fools who popped up in the immediate aftermath, claiming to have secret information, offering to dox or attack the Evo admins in exchange for Bitcoins (upfront, naturally), posting faked chats intended to deliver malware (example).”
Meanwhile, Gwern, a self-described “freelance writer and researcher” who has been investigating dark markets for some time, states he is “a further tangent to z-l, and so of even less importance.”
The main target in Gwern’s estimation is NSWGreat, an Australian vendor who sold on Evolution and who acted as an employee for the dark marketplace in a PR capacity.
Special Agent McFarland asked reddit for the following information on the five users:
- The subscriber’s name; email address, registration IP address, registration date, current IP address
- The subscriber’s address;
- The subscriber’s local and long distance telephone toll billing records;
- The subscriber’s records of session times and durations;
- The subscriber’s length of service (including start date) and types of services utilized;
- The subscriber’s telephone or instrument number or other subscriber number or identity, including any temporarily assigned network address; and
- The subscriber’s means and source of payment for such service (including any credit card or bank number).
It is unclear at this point whether reddit will comply with the subpoena. “Because this a pending legal matter, Reddit can’t provide a comment,” a spokesperson at the social media site told Gizmodo.
In the meantime, Gwern believes that the revelations of the subpoena could affect what discussions are posted on r/darknetmarkets.
“Riskier discussions will move onto the Hub [a Tor-protected drug market discussion site],” he suspects. “[But] 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.”