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They Did What?: 

Robot drug buyer acquitted by Swiss Police

Slap on the wrist: the ecstasy buying robot was not charged. And it also wasn't prosecuted. (Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik)

Slap on the wrist: the ecstasy buying robot was not charged. And it also wasn’t prosecuted. (Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik)

If you buy drugs online and tell anyone and everyone about it, you’re probably going to get a prison sentence and a place on America’s Dumbest Criminals. Still, in Switzerland, one suspect got away scot-free. How? It was a robot.

The Random Darknet Shopper is a project from Swiss art group !Mediengruppe Bitnik, and this particular robot was given the best or worst ever version of Supermarket Sweep, depending on your point of view.

Every week, it was given $100 worth of bitcoins to go hog-wild in the dark web as a genuine mystery shopper. The dark web refers to the unindexed parts of the internet where criminals often go to peddle their wears away from the prying eyes of law enforcement, Google and sensible law-abiding citizens.

The robot visited an online marketplace and purchased items that were then sent back to the Kunst Halle St Gallen – a gallery in Switzerland – where it would be part of an exhibition: “The Darknet — From Memes to Onionland.

So what did the robot cross off its shopping list? CNBC has quite the list: fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a secret compartment, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, 10 packets of cigarettes, a Lord of the Rings e-book collection, a Hungarian passport and 10 ecstasy pills. It was the last one of the list – the drug also known as MDMA – which saw police seize the robot and everything it had purchased for investigation, just four months into the exhibition’s run. Word must get around slowly in eastern Switzerland.

Returned, minus the pills.

Returned, minus the pills. (Image: !Mediengruppe Bitnik)

Three months on though, and police have released the robot and the goods – barring the drug, which were destroyed – without pressing charges. “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,” St Gallen spokesman Thomas Hansjakob told CNBC.

The !Mediengruppe Bitnik group could barely contain their delight, writing: “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!”

We’re looking forward to seeing the robot dressed to the nines in its Nike trainers, fake Diesel jeans and camera baseball cap very soon.

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