There exists an online hit list of sorts featuring the names of prominent government officials that allows people to contribute bitcoins to the price on a target's head. Whoever guesses the correct date of death then gets the bitcoin bounty.
The disturbing "Assassination Market" was tipped to Forbes writer Andy Greenberg in an encrypted email from someone going by Kuwabatake Sanjuro, a self-proclaimed "crypto-anarchist" and creator of the site.
Although the feds shut down the so-called "Silk Road" -- a marketplace where the digital currency bitcoin was used to purchase drugs and hitmen, among other nefarious activities -- it seems that other anonymous networks are continuing criminal activity with the exchange of bitcoins. The Assassination Market is one of them.
There are currently only six people on the list with relatively small prices on their heads: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, one of the names, currently has a pool size worth 124.14 bitcoins, or approximately $81,573.64.
The current assassination market list. (Image source: Assassination Market)
Registered users of the Assassination Market can contribute bitcoins to a pool for a specific person. In doing so, they make a prediction for when the person will die. If they are correct, they can collect the bitcoins.
"If this is the only prediction, the money is paid instantly. If there are multiple, allow one month for other predictors to state their claim. Payout is manual and may take a while. When a new prediction gets claimed the month restarts if there are more of them. I take 1 percent of the pool for my trouble," the website's creator stated on the market's information page.
Here's more from Greenberg's exchange with the founder of the Assassination Market:
Sanjuro’s grisly ambitions go beyond raising the funds to bankroll a few political killings. He believes that if Assassination Market can persist and gain enough users, it will eventually enable the assassinations of enough politicians that no one would dare to hold office. He says he intends Assassination Market to destroy “all governments, everywhere.”
“I believe it will change the world for the better,” writes Sanjuro, who shares his handle with the nameless samurai protagonist in the Akira Kurosawa film “Yojimbo.” (He tells me he chose it in homage to creator of the online black market Silk Road, who called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts, as well Bitcoin inventor Satoshi Nakamoto.) "Thanks to this system, a world without wars, dragnet panopticon-style surveillance, nuclear weapons, armies, repression, money manipulation, and limits to trade is firmly within our grasp for but a few bitcoins per person. I also believe that as soon as a few politicians gets offed and they realize they’ve lost the war on privacy, the killings can stop and we can transition to a phase of peace, privacy and laissez-faire."
Sanjuro addressed the morality of a website encouraging assassinations, saying "in most cases," killing is wrong.
"However, as this is an inevitable direction in the technological evolution, I would rather see it in the hands of me than somebody else," he stated on the website. "By providing it cheaply and accurately I hope that more immoral alternatives won't be profitable or trusted enough. This should primarily be a tool for retribution. When someone uses the law against you and/or infringes upon your negative rights to life, liberty, property, trade or the pursuit of happiness, you may now, in a safe manner from the comfort of your living room, lower their life-expectancy in return."
Anyone can be added to the list, provided there is a "good reason."
"Bad reasons include doctors for performing abortions and Justin Bieber for making annoying music," the website stated. "The person should have wronged someone in some way related to the previous question. Politicians, bureaucrats, regulators and lobbyists are accepted without question."
That said, once a person is on the list, they're on it until they die.
If you're wondering what would even inspire someone to create such a website, Sanjuro said it was his "deep-rooted hate against oppressive regimes" and the revelations about government surveillance programs this past summer.
"Being forced to alter my every happy memory during Internet activity, every intimate moment over the phone with my loved ones, to also include some of the people I hate the most listening in, analyzing the conversation, was the inspiration I needed to embark on this task,” Sanjuro told Forbes. “After about a week of muttering ‘they must all die’ under my breath every time I opened a newspaper or turned on the television, I decided something had to be done. This is my contribution to the cause.”
In light of the data collection by these government programs and the recent arrests of those involved in the Silk Road, is Sanjuro worried about being found out?
Sanjuro told Forbes that in addition to encryption he has other secret "measures in place to prevent the effectiveness of such an arrest."
Featured image via Shutterstock.