The Dark Web's Largest Pedophile Site Was Secretly Run By The Police For A Year
A major international police operation to bust child predators involved police sharing child pornography with over a million unsuspecting online subscribers for a year after investigators took control of the dark web's largest child abuse forum. Though hundreds of pedophiles were arrested after the site was shut down, the police sting involved undercover officers sharing extremely disturbing content and encouraging followers to engage in sexual acts with children. But police say it was worth it.
A new report reveals that Australian police were running the largest pedophile and child pornography forum on the internet for a year as part of a joint initiative between Australian, European, and Canadian police as well as the US Department of Homeland Security to track down the site's administrators and child porn producers. Over the weekend the Norwegian newspaper VG published its bombshell investigation which confirmed that between October 2016 and September 2017 a special police task force based in Queensland, Australia was able to quietly hack the site "Childs Play" which had reached over a million registered accounts and had thousands of active users.
The task force was able to identify the site's top tier administrators, leading to hundreds of international arrests and criminal investigations, but not before crossing what critics see as a significant ethical line: to expose those behind the site, police themselves posted child pornography and facilitated what was essentially a pedophile online meet-up.
The site has existed since April 2016 on the dark web, which made it next to impossible to identify users and administrators as the dark web operates based on layers of encryption which ensures complete anonymity. Not only did the forum include over one hundred active producers of child pornography who would daily post videos and images, but even more disturbingly involved a smaller inner circle who shared child torture videos.
Police, while running the site, also continued to share images and videos while undergoing their year-long investigation which identified numerous video producers as well as consumers of the content. For example the task force posted a video of an eight-year-old girl being raped only two weeks after taking over the forum, which was viewed 770,617 times, according to the report. Such extreme police tactics, which authorities argue was necessary to rescue victims and put predators behind bars, have outraged some of the victims' families.
VG reporters were able to speak to a mother of one the victims whose video was used by police as part of the operation: "My daughter should not be used as a bait... It is not right for the police to promote these images," she said. But police investigators told VG in response to criticism that, "There is definitely a balance between what we want to achieve and how we go about it." And added, "Eventually we get to the point where it isn’t worth running the forum any more. But as long as we’re identifying victims, producers and abusers, we will keep running it."
A similar investigation by the FBI in 2015 of a site significantly smaller than Child's Play's size made 870 arrests and rescued 259 children after agents kept it online for just two weeks. The FBI came under fire for actively sharing, promoting and facilitating the transfer of thousands of images and videos. But the Australian task force ran a site which was over five times the size and content volume for close to a year.