Are Crowdfunded Assassinations A Thing Now?

Andy Greenberg introduces readers to Kuwabatake Sanjuro, a self-described crypto-anachist who presides over “a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations”:

According to Assassination Market’s rules, if someone on its hit list is killed–and yes, Sanjuro hopes that many targets will be – any hitman who can prove he or she was responsible receives the collected funds. … Like other so-called “dark web” sites, Assassination Market runs on the anonymity network Tor, which is designed to prevent anyone from identifying the site’s users or Sanjuro himself. Sanjuro’s decision to accept only bitcoins is also intended to protect users, Sanjuro, and any potential assassins from being identified through their financial transactions. bitcoins, after all, can be sent and received without necessarily tying them to any real-world identity.

Brian Merchant checks out the site:

In the FAQ section, Sanjuro explains who’s eligible for extermination:

“I’ll allow anything that has a good reason,” he says. “Bad reasons include doctors for performing abortions and Justin Bieber for making annoying music. The person should have wronged someone in some way related to the previous question. Politicians, bureaucrats, regulators and lobbyists are accepted without question.” Currently, there are six people marked for death: Jyrki Tapani Katainen, the prime minister of Finland; François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, the president of France; “Barack Hussein Obama II”; Ben Shalom Bernanke; the NSA director Keith Brian Alexander; and James Clapper, the head of the National Intelligence Agency.

Pledges have already been made, too. By far the highest bounty is on Bernanke, with 124 bitcoin on his head. With today’s exchange rate, that comes out to a value of $75,000 USD. That is now essentially a price on Bernanke’s head, if any users are convinced enough by Sanjuro’s twisted gambit to pull the trigger. And Sanjuro hopes it’s just the beginning. He’s awaiting a user-generated list of murder subjects – just input your own into the text box like so, and you’ll have done your part to instigate a conspiracy to kill.

P.J. Vogt isn’t sure how seriously to take a site like Assassination Market:

The skeptical part of me is pretty sure these markets are a scam. Assassination isn’t the kind of service that lends itself to public advertisements or to trusting people based on their online reputations. And the fact that the website specifically promises to go after high-profile politicians adds to its unlikeliness. Viewed in that light, Assassination Markets is just another place where a fool and his bitcoin are soon parted.

And yet, these kinds of stories – about an enormous but hypothetical idea that will likely never be realized – can get real very quickly. To take a recent example, the idea of the Silk Road, when it was introduced, seemed completely preposterous to me. Yes, it was technically possible for people to buy and sell drugs online. But who, beyond a tiny fringe, would actually use it? Of course I was wrong – the site ran successfully for two years before being shuttered.

Either the news didn’t get to Bernanke or he didn’t let it get to him; this week he gave a “cautious blessing to bitcoin” in advance of a congressional hearing on virtual currency:

Bernanke mostly distanced himself from virtual currencies, saying the Fed “does not necessarily have authority to directly supervise or regulate these innovations or the entities that provide them to the market.” But he also said that bitcoin and its ilk “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system.”