Swiss Police Free Robot Busted for Buying Ecstasy Online

The robot, which goes by the name Random Darknet Shopper, was part of an art installation meant to explore the dark web.

If your robot buys ecstasy, are you responsible? That is exactly what Mike Power wondered when he reviewed the Swiss exhibition The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland for the Guardian in December.

The answer: not if it’s in the name of art, at least according to a police department in St Gallen, Switzerland.

The police department confirmed on Tuesday it has now released the robot they arrested – er, confiscated – in January after it bought 10 ecstasy pills on the internet as part of an art installation meant to explore the deep web.

Happy shoppers: the art collective buying ecstasy on the deep web Read more

The robot and all of the purchases it made online – including a pair of fake Diesel jeans, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, a stash can, a pair of Nike trainers, 200 Chesterfield cigarettes, a set of fire brigade-issued master keys, a fake Louis Vuitton handbag and a Lord of the Rings e-book collection – were returned to !Mediengruppe Bitnik, the art group that designed the robot, with the exception of the ecstasy pills, which were destroyed by the police.

The robot, which goes by the name Random Darknet Shopper, is “an automated online shopping bot which we provide with a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week,” !Mediengruppe Bitnik explain on their website. “Once a week the bot goes on a shopping spree in the deep web where it randomly chooses and purchases one item and has it mailed to us.” The installation ended the day before the robot was apprehended.

The bot and the artists will not be charged.

According to a recent post on !Mediengruppe Bitnik’s blog, the prosecutors deemed the possession of ecstasy “a reasonable means for the purpose of sparking public debate about questions related to the exhibition”.

“We decided the ecstasy that is in this presentation was safe and nobody could take it away. Bitnik never intended to sell it or consume it so we didn’t punish them,” Thomas Hansjakob, a spokesman for the Swiss St Gallen police, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“We as well as the Random Darknet Shopper have been cleared of all charges. This is a great day for the bot, for us and for freedom of art!” said the art group.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.