DNSTARS, the self-described “independent drug testing and publishing platform” is shutting down. The forum is most well known for hosting the results of drug identification or purity tests from Energy Control, EcstasyData, Wedinos, and other drug testing laboratories. Users of the forum often pay for an analysis of a substance from a darkweb vendor and then post the results of the test on the forum.
The users of the forum primarily discussed topics related to harm reduction including safe darkweb vendors, unsafe batches of drugs, various trends related to drug use, as well as the results of drug tests. The forum had a good relationship with Energy Control. For example, samples submitted by DNSTARS users helped Energy Control identify several substances from the substituted cathinone family.
Energy Control’s sample testing for cryptomarket users is not restricted to DNSTARS. The forum’s closure simply reduces the number of platforms where users can discuss the results of tests. Dread is an obvious alternative. The use of Tor or any other anonymizing software might deter users though.
Although the DNSTARS Terms of Service allows for the release of user information to law enforcement (as well as non-personally identifiable information for advertisers), the admin clarified in a signed message that law enforcement had not requested the information of any DNSTARS user.
Below is the message posted on November 29 under the title “Site Closure in a week or so.”
Site Closure in a week or so
The site isn’t commercially viable in a nutshell.
Donations don’t cover the bills, flip and split didn’t, locking the doors down “worked” but we were bleeding off 10% of active members a month and we’re now here today with the doors open, affiliate link hasn’t made anything for 100k impressions and to date no one bought any merch. We compromised on the IP address thing a bit and there’s the usual shenanigans starting to creep in.
The intent is/was to have a free tier with limited likes etc then a £2.99 tier for access to encrypted PMs etc but the truth is I’ve lost the will to try implementing this just to have the same issues come around this time again in Spring.
The member intake brought in circa £6k that was stunted by a crypto drop of about 20-25%, £2k odd was apportioned for codes, the rest into server upgrades and getting the front end up and developed with the remainder paying off liabilities owed to other people, mainly for historical codes purchased.
Maintaining the company costs a little over £100 a month, the servers combined are around £230 a month and then community incentives and codes stack on top of that. That’s before any staff get paid, which none of us do.
In return for a speedy site with relatively great uptime over the long view and a “safe harbour” from the arbitrary guidelines of other platforms the price for staff has been credible and severe abuse, malicious packs sent to them or the more mundane aspersions of corruption to the wilder ones that staff impersonate EC etc for no material return.
Should anyone else want to pick the project up in spirit then I would very much welcome that, with first refusal going to staff here. For privacy reasons I can’t/won’t be handing over the back end to anything since it contains mountains of user’s personal information, but there are means to export/translate/scrape the front here.
Having staff take over doesn’t preclude onwards travel of the database or making an error with it so that’s not on the table.
Those considering it should know the following.
Conventional hosts won’t tolerate the content here
You’ll be legally liable for the content on here one way or another
If you intend on using discourse the database here is circa 16GB+ in size now that excludes discourse image and ubuntu, circa 150gb, most VPS instances who would host you do not support the hard drive required for that + the install of the software
You need non-cloud flare anti-DDOS which tends to be pretty expensive
You can’t allow sourcing on the clearnet, not with class A stuff anyway
If you allow sourcing on the dark net you’re going to get raided sooner or later
There’s always someone somewhere pushing at the boundaries for their own interests and mitigating it is time consuming and very hard to balance
You’re legally liable for data breaches
The press won’t like you
Invariably vendors won’t either
Personally, I’ve got two young children at home, I don’t do drugs anymore, full time job and looking to do an MBA. The Mrs has an intermittent neurological condition too that has been neglected for the sakes of here. It’s simply a burden that is no longer justifiable for me. There are undoubtedly 1000 different ways I could have ran the project better, but I didn’t. I did my best for the most part and whilst it has “worked” it is not a viable as a business and we’ve already tried a non-profit vehicle, the governance collapsed.
Perhaps there is 2000-5000-10,000 people out there who would pay £1.99-£4.99 for the “Gods work” people think of the results page, but if there are, I have failed to find them and thus failed you.
Having reached out to administrators in similar positions/sites to this the theme seems to be a recurring one, 5-10 years later they’re sat on a net loss of £25k and the long-term payback from it was that a handful of people thought of them as cool once.
We’ve done a lot, learned a lot, produced a lot. We showed that balancing as a platform between stakeholders can be done. It needs someone better than me to show it can be sustained.
There’s something like £600 left, I’ll be disbursing refunds to those who have current memberships beyond December 2019, settling the WEDINOS wednesdays winners, striking the business off and if there’s anything after that I’ll split it between staff.
It’s been a wild ride and I sincerely wish everyone every success in their future endeavours. You can download your posts and data from your profile should you wish to and/or if no one wants to formally take over the reins of a whole-site export and carry on.
Special thanks to all the staff who have been legitimately dauntless in the face of adversity, we’d not have lasted 5 minutes without the pains some/most of you’ve endured, particularly Tangled and Bawbag who would have put Sisyphus to shame.
I have extracted a some of the test results from the forum for archiving and use in the future. If anyone has any raw data, feel free to contact Darknetlive.