The founder of Silk Road is dictating tweets from the prison where he’s serving life — and he’s convinced 55,000 people to sign his petition for clemency
A photo of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht who sentenced to life in prison May 29, 2015. Screenshot
• Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 after being convicted of running the dark web marketplace Silk Road.
• His family have set up the twitter account @RealRossU, which relays messages Ulbricht dictates from prison.
• The account has helped get over 55,000 signatures for a petition asking for clemency for Ulbricht.
• His supporters argue Silk Road was no different to eBay and it’s not his fault that people used it to sell drugs.
Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the dark web marketplace Silk Road, is dictating messages from prison that his family are delivering to the outside world via Twitter.
The Twitter account @RealRossU was opened in June and sent its first tweet on July 19. The tweet linked to a handwritten note posted on FreeRoss.org, a website run by “family, friends and supporters” of Ulbricht. The note said that the fact it was posted on FreeRoss.org proved its authenticity. Since then, the account has said Ulbricht is dictating his tweets over the phone to supporters.
“I’m hoping this will help me stay connected to the outside,” the first tweet read.
Ulbricht, 34, is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2015 of running Silk Road, a marketplace on the dark web that became synonymous with the illegal drug trade. At its height, the marketplace was estimated to have sales of $30 million to $45 million a year. The bulk of business on the site is believed to have been drug-related.
Ulbricht, who used the alias Dread Pirate Roberts (a reference to the cult movie “The Princess Bride“) on Silk Road, was arrested by the FBI at a public library in San Francisco in October 2013.
@RealRossU has posted 19 tweets since it was set up, covering everything from the joy of getting visits in prison, his workout routine, and forgiving the judge who sentenced him to life in jail. The account has attracted over 18,000 followers.
Ulbricht’s parents Lyn and Kirk talking to journalists during their son’s trial in 2015.REUTERS/Nate Raymond
The account’s activation coincided with the creation of a petition calling for clemency for Ulbricht. It was set up by Ross’s mother, Lyn Ulbricht, who runs the FreeRoss.org website.
“This is a sentence that shocks the conscience,” the petition reads. “The website Silk Road was an e-commerce platform similar to eBay, where individual users chose what to list for sale. Both legal and illegal items were sold, most commonly small amounts of cannabis.
Ross is condemned to die in prison, not for dealing drugs himself but for a website where others did. This is far harsher than the punishment for many murderers, paedophiles, rapists and other violent people.”
As of Friday afternoon, the Change.org petition has gained over 55,000 signatures.
A handwritten note from Ulbricht written on Wednesday and posted late on Thursday by the @RealRossU account said: “I’m blown away by the outpouring of love and support you’ve shown me the past few weeks.
“With you behind me, I have hope that the petition will keep growing and we will get the President’s attention.”