If that headline doesn’t make much sense welcome to the 21st century when a program designed to buy random items from illegal marketplaces automatically can be arrested by Swiss police. As you’ll recall, Swiss police seized a program called Darknet Shopper, a bot that visited darknet markets and bought random items with bitcoin. Most of the items were mundane – counterfeit goods and the like – but the robot also ordered some ecstasy.
“￼On the morning of January 12, the day after the three-month exhibition was closed, the public prosecutor’s office of St. Gallen seized and sealed our work,” wrote the creators, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, in January. “It seems, the purpose of the confiscation is to impede an endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited by destroying them. This is what we know at present. We believe that the confiscation is an unjustified intervention into freedom of art.”
Thanks to some forward-thinking judges, however, the robot is now free to buy again. According to a blog post, the police have released the bot after destroying the ecstasy it purchased. They did not, however, destroy the sweet counterfeit Nikes the robot bought. A judge in Switzerland also noted that displaying contraband as an art project is just fine and that the bot was well within legality.
The group wrote:
￼At the same time we also received the order for withdrawal of prosecution. In the order for withdrawal of prosecution the public prosecutor states that the possession of Ecstasy was indeed a reasonable means for the purpose of sparking public debate about questions related to the exhibition. The public prosecution also asserts that the overweighing interest in the questions raised by the art work «Random Darknet Shopper» justify the exhibition of the drugs as artefacts, even if the exhibition does hold a small risk of endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited.
“We as well as the Random Darknet Shopper have been cleared of all charges. This is a great day for the bot, for us and for freedom of art!” said the creators.