Reddit has banned /r/DarkNetMarkets, the site's biggest community dedicated to discussions related to Dark Web marketplaces —sites dedicated to selling illegal products varying from weapons, drugs, malware, data breaches, DDoS services, fraud services, and more.
The community —called a subreddit on the site— had nearly 180,000 subscribed users at the time of the ban, two hours before this article's publication.
Reddit admins banned the DarkNetMarkets subreddit minutes after putting a new rule into effect that forbade communities where users exchanged certain types of goods on Reddit. The list of forbidden goods includes:
The new "direct dealing" rule has been under discussion on Reddit for quite a while, but the Stoneman Douglas High School mass-shooting remotivated Reddit admins on approving and enforcing the new guideline —approved mainly to prevent any firearms and ammunition trade on the platform.
DarkNetMarkets have been keeping an eye on admin discussions, and some expected the ban hammer to fall for quite some time now.
r/DarkNetMarkets users panicking Reddit will drop the ban hammer on their sub— Catalin Cimpanu (@campuscodi) March 12, 2018
Honestly, I believe the FBI has told Reddit to keep that sub alive just for info-gathering purposes (no official source on this, just a hunch)https://t.co/toXq7EFi3W pic.twitter.com/7erKy6nAeW
The ban of DarkNetMarkets is fully justified. The entire point of the subreddit was to let users talk about Dark Web markets, and naturally, all discussions always steered off to transactions, market bugs, scammers, or product reviews.
Even if subreddit moderators tried their best at banning users from arranging sales via the subreddit, it was hard to find a topic where one user wouldn't show his/her's availability for filling an order for various products —usually drugs.
The subreddit was also the first place where users would go to complain about markets shutting down or pulling exit scams, with some users hilariously revealing crucial details about their real-life personas.
My favorite thing is when a market gets popped or exit scams and the users flood to Reddit and tell specifics about their accounts. "I had 653.23$ on my account and an order waiting. Will I get this back?" *Uses same @ on IRL reddit and onion market where they buy Sched 1 drugs* https://t.co/stpIHcjLP0— i accidentally rm -rf with stuff mounted. (@FourOctets) March 12, 2018
Many in the information security business believed the subreddit to be swarming with law enforcement agents gathering information for future arrests.
I wonder if this is something of an intelligence loss for law enforcement who used the subreddit to track the underground. Then again, there hasn’t been an effective replacement for AlphaBay since it went down so maybe this was just another step for LE.— Patrick Howell O'Neill (@HowellONeill) March 21, 2018
Following the subreddit's sudden demise, several clone subreddits have now popped up on Reddit, but expect most to disappear once Reddit admins find evidence of users arranging transactions of illegal goods through these new communities.