Is Law and Order’s Shadowërk a Real Website?

Predominantly set in New York City, the ‘Law & Order’ franchise explores human depravity and how various branches of the police force combat it. As all three ‘Law & Order’ shows currently on television near their season finales, narratives start to overlap. Olivia Benson of ‘SVU’ and Elliot Stabler of ‘Organized Crime’ have a long history together. It is revealed in the penultimate episode of ‘SVU’ season 24 that they are at present looking for the same perpetrators, who are associated with a website called Shadowërk. Here is everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.

What is Shadowërk?

In ‘Organized Crime’ season 3 episode 20, Elliot and his team trace an assassination ring to a prison, where convicts imprisoned for life are briefly released to carry out hits. Although they arrest the correctional officer in charge of releasing the prisoner, the source of the money remains a mystery. In ‘SVU’ season 24 episode 21, Benson and her team investigate a series of rape cases. The victims didn’t know the perpetrators, who took a photo during the act. It becomes apparent as the investigation progresses that the criminals were hired by people from the victims’ past — often former boyfriends and stalkers.

In ‘Organized Crime’ season 3 episode 21, the authorities finally catch a break when they discover that a woman hired a convicted criminal to go after the babysitter her husband had an affair with. During interrogation, she reveals that she hired the criminal through a website called Shadowërk, which can only be accessed through a Tor browser and with an invitation.

People list anonymously about their targets; the payment is made through Bitcoin. Criminals around the world take up the job, which can vary from assassination to rape to breaking a person’s leg. In one case, almost an entire neighborhood contributes to killing the president of their homeowners’ association.

The Organized Crime division discovers that Shadowërk is spread all over the world. The website has a map of the world, where katanas indicate potential jobs. If the job is completed, blood begins to drop from the katanas. There is a 24-hour window to complete a task from the moment of its posting. The job is relisted if it isn’t done in that time frame. As Jet explains, the website is decentralized, bouncing off multiple computers, so it’s nearly impossible to shut Shadowërk down. As the network is spread all over the world, the FBI and Interpol join the investigation, and Elliot brings in Amanda Rollins to profile the user of email Hyakunin-giri, the person behind Shadowërk.

Is Shadowërk a Real Website?

No, Shadowërk is not a real website. In an article published in March 2020, The New York Times listed several websites on the dark web that claim to let people commission a murder for hefty fees. Several of those are reportedly known to be scam sites. One website offers different options at various price ranges. For instance, you can get a person beaten for $2,000, but for death by torture, you need to pay $50,000. Tom Holt of Michigan State University and his student Ariel Roddy looked into these sites for their research paper.

“When we think about illicit markets online, like those selling drugs or guns, we assume these are very savvy, sophisticated operators with tons of technical experience,” Dr. Halt explained. “Some are but there are also a large number of people with limited background knowledge, some of whom are running scams or schemes based on general human interactions.”

According to Dr. Halt, some of these sites are likely sting operations set up by the authorities if they aren’t downright scams. However, he also stated, “Even if these advertisements aren’t real, there’s still a sufficient number of ads to suggest that someone out there is paying a portion of these actors. There wouldn’t be so many if someone wasn’t actually getting paid out of it. The data surrounding the pricing information available tells us the vendors are conscious of a reasonable price point that someone would be willing to pay, and they’re advertising that.”

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