The US government has launch a federal investigation into five prominent users of Reddit’s “Darknet Markets” subreddit.
According to Wired, the Baltimore Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a subpoena to the social news site, demanding personal information regarding some of its users.
The particular Reddit portal in question is used to share links and information concerning the so-called “dark net,” where users can commonly find illegal items such as drugs and weapons. US federal agents are thought to be particularly interested in the disappearance of the Evolution dark net drug market.
Evolution was one of the largest existing markets until it was taken down by the site’s owners several weeks ago. Evolution’s administrators are also believed to have taken off with up to $12 million (£8.14 million) of bitcoins belonging to the site’s sellers and buyers.
The DHS is now keen to question five users of the Darknet Markets subreddit who have discussed Evolution in recent weeks. Security researcher Gwern Branwen is one of those users and shared news of the subpoena online.
In a Reddit post, Branwen also claims that three out of the five users in question are just scammers, claiming to have information on the Evolution closure in order to spread malware or con users out of bitcoins.
The other redditor subpoenaed by the authorities worked for Evolution in a PR capacity, according to Branwen, and warned users of the scam in advance of the site’s closure.
Branwen has advised Reddit users that if they wish to continue discussing the Evolution scam they should do so on a Tor-protected forum in order to avoid harassment from the DHS. Tor is a software package allowing for anonymous communications that can be used to carry out illegal activities, but is also used to avoid surveillance.
However, even if individuals continue to use Reddit, the DHS is unlikely to be able to subpoena much relevant information. Amongst the information being requested is user phone numbers and financial data, both of which are not tied to Reddit accounts.