Programmers made a robot which was designed to automatically buy random items from online marketplaces. The unfortunate robot got into hot water with the Swiss authorities after it bought a shipment of illegal drugs online, writes John Biggs for Tech Crunch. Darknet Shopper was programmed to visit darknet markets and buy items using cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and had amassed a collection of fairly humdrum items such as counterfeit sneakers before one day a small packet of ecstasy tablets arrived.
Creators outraged by confiscation of art
The robot was part of an art project created by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik which ran for three months, before the robot was apprehended. “?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 group 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.”
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However the robot has now been told that it is free to continue its online shopping. The robot has been released after the police destroyed the ecstasy that it bought. The authorities stopped short of destroying the fake Nikes that it also picked up online after a Swiss judge ruled that displaying contraband as art is within the law.
Freedom of art preserved after ruling
According to !Mediengruppe Bitnik, “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.”
The robot has now been released and its makers cleared of all charges. The group wrote: “This is a great day for the bot, for us and for freedom of art!” Thanks to the progressive thinking of certain judges with the Swiss legal system, the robot is now free to continue creating art.