Ross Ulbricht, jailed founder of the dark web community Silk Road, today announced that he has joined Twitter.
The man is known for being the founder of the infamous Silk Road, one of the first and biggest markets that allowed people to use Bitcoin to purchase goods and services. Ultimately, Silk Road devolved into an eBay-like market that was at its height infamous for illegal drug trade, money laundering and laundry list of similar criminal activities. This was the market where Bitcoin received its infamy as a digital currency that is used by criminals, something that Bitcoin naysayers still to this day use to bash cryptocurrencies with. For his role in creation and operation of the market, as well as related criminal charges, Ulbricht (known as Dread Pirate Roberts on the website) was arrested in 2013 and convicted in February of 2015 to a double life+40 years sentence, to be served with no possibility of parole.
Ulbricht has since remained jailed in USP Florence High, a maximum security penitentiary in Colorado, and was recently given permission to create a publicly available account on Twitter. While regular inmates don’t get such privileges most of the time, Bitcoin.com reports that Ulbricht’s case has become somewhat of a cause célèbre, and authorities therefore decided to give him access to Twitter (albeit via third party publishing). For the first time in 5 years, Ulbricht will have means of communicating with the public, most of which is appalled by the length and severity of his sentence (usually given to veritable drug lords and murderers). By comparison, other defendants in the case against Silk Road are today out on the streets as free men.
The former programmer has so far exhausted all the conventional ways of reducing his sentence, without any success. The latest attempt to get him free looks to employ the power of social pressure. A change.org petition was started by Ulbricht’s family, looking to collect enough signatures from people supportive of his release. The Twitter account is an extension of this attack plan, as both the petition and the Twitter account are managed by freeross.org, a website dedicated to engineering Ulbricht’s pardon.
Ross isn’t allowed to tweet directly, but uses a third party which transcribes letters he sends via mail and crams them into Twitter’s limit of 140 characters. The account’s first tweet was posted today, saying:
“I’m hoping to find my voice here after all these years of silence. It has been a strange journey, but I’m so grateful for all those who’ve shown love and support and held me up through the hard times. You give me strength.”
A photo of his original letter has been posted on freeross.org.
This implies that Ulbricht’s account won’t be posting very often, as it will take time for the mail to reach the people in charge of it. The account managed to amass 2359 followers at the time of writing, with over 1300 likes on his first ever post. @DavidShares posted the following comment:
“Ross, we support you. There isn’t a day that goes by when people aren’t talking about you and the travesty of the government and their unjust ruling on your life. Stay strong.”
While everybody agrees that Ulbricht committed a crime, it seems that a majority of people familiar with the case are against the draconian punishment that was given to him. Bitcoin and crypto community is also divided on the issue, as some feel he is responsible for connecting the coin with criminal activities. Others feel that this wasn’t his fault, as he wasn’t the one who made the illegal transactions. They are also grateful to him for providing a first real marketplace for Bitcoin. A peculiar case indeed, it remains to be seen if these newly implemented social pressure tactics will help Ulbricht get a reduction of his sentence or maybe even turn him into a free man.
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