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Hitmen for Hire

Shashank Shirol - Authorshashank.shirol@osqledaren.se

Pranav Kalambi - Illustratorpranav.kalambi@osqledaren.se

A look at the chilling reality of how digital anonymity emboldens individuals to cross moral boundaries. Read through as we delve into the origins of the dark web, followed by an interesting case study of how a satirical website helped save numerous lives and conclude by probing the minds of the individuals who hire these hitmen.

The first version of the modern dark web was developed in the form of Freenet by Ian Clarke in March 2000, offering anonymous communication online. However, The Onion Router (Tor), launched a couple of years later by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, significantly popularized the dark web. Tor was designed for U.S. intelligence use to navigate the internet without identification. This meant it had to be made open source and adopted by a wide range of users, not just government operatives. The broad adoption would help mask the activities of intelligence services among the general traffic, ensuring the anonymity Tor promised. This foundation led to the dark web’s association with legitimate privacy-focused activities and illicit transactions, including the Hitmen-For-Hire black market.

RentAHitman.com began as a legitimate business idea in 2005 (on the internet, not the dark web), intended for an IT company focusing on security and web traffic analysis. While the company never existed, the original owner retained the domain. Over time, they discovered that the site received serious inquiries for contract killing services. The first real one came in 2010 from a woman in Canada, which led to the site owner passing her details to the police, which resulted in her conviction for soliciting murder. This led the site owner to transform RentAHitman.com into a satirical front for a hitman hiring agency, filled with jokes and disclaimers indicating its non-legitimacy. Despite this, the site received numerous serious inquiries, which were forwarded to the authorities and led to several convictions. The site owner claims the website has saved around 150 lives by preventing would-be crimes.

This begs the question, what are the psychological motivations behind hiring a hitman? Though contract killing has not been studied empirically on criminal homicide, a 2003 study by the Australian Institute of Criminology showed that the most common motive for contract killing was domestic. The research examined both cases where the target was killed and where the plots were intercepted. People who want someone dead believe that they can put a distance between themselves and the target by hiring a hitman. James Wan, a 54-year-old doctor from Duluth, Minnesota, was recently sentenced to more than seven years in prison for accessing the dark web and placing a “hit” on his girlfriend. He had transferred around $24,000 in Bitcoin and presented a detailed description of his girlfriend to a supposed hitman on the marketplace. This information was intercepted by the FBI, who then arrested Wan. Another chilling story comes from Beverly Hills, where Scott Berkett, a 25-year-old, was arrested for attempting to hire a hitman to kill an ex-girlfriend who had rejected him. Beckett had sent around $13,000 in cryptocurrency to the murder-for-hire service and requested proof of the victim’s death. The plot was revealed when the site, which was a scam, alerted the media and informed the FBI.

The internet is filled with such cases of contract killings. More often than not, the victims are people in the contract givers’ lives. The psychological motivations for individuals who resort to murder-for-hire are complex and multifaceted, stemming from a combination of personal, emotional, and situational factors. They are driven by desperation, greed, or psychopathy, but they are not considered insane or seriously mentally ill in the legal or clinical sense. While they may have any number of reasons to seek out a contract killing, the common thread among these moral transgressors is not their socio-economic status but rather a specific and personal connection to their target, chosen for a reason, often rooted in anger, frustration, or a desire to escape a perceived intolerable situation without considering the moral or legal consequences.

By examining the case studies and delving into the psychological motivations behind hiring a hitman, we uncover the anonymity and lawlessness that the dark web facilitates and the darker aspects of human nature it mirrors. This exploration forces us to confront the ethical and moral dilemmas posed by the digital age's shadowy byways, challenging us to balance the benefits of privacy and freedom against the potential for abuse and harm.

Publicerad: 2023-03-22

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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