American and European authorities announced Thursday they had shut down two internet black markets. The sites were known for selling drugs, including the synthetic opioid fentanyl, along with other drugs, weapons, and stolen data. Combined, both had more than 200,000 users and over 40,000 venders.
In early July, authorities shut down AlphaBay and arrested its alleged founder Alexandre Cazes, who later killed himself in his jail cell. AlphaBay had grown to 10 times the size of Silk Road, another dark-net site that was shuttered by authorities in 2013. After AlphaBay went down, users raced to Hansa Market to find contraband items. However, Dutch authorities had already taken control of the site in June to operate the marketplace, monitor activity, and gather identifying details. Messages posted to Hansa's site on Thursday announced the seizure.
"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of this entire year, I have no doubt about that," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a news conference on Thursday. "Most of this activity was for illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national illegal drug epidemic."
After the shutdowns were announced, panicked users took to Reddit to warn others. The popular discussion website has become a hotbed for the American opioid epidemic, with thousands of people using the platform to share tips on getting high and getting clean. In 2015, 20,101 people died after overdosing on prescription pain relievers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. While Reddit banned some opioid-related forums last week, it has still played a major role in facilitating access to the deadly drugs.