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How police hijacked dark web child porn site

Publish date: 11 October 2017
Issue Number: 1704
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Category: Cybercrime

Australian police secretly operated one of the dark web’s largest child abuse sites for almost a year in an undercover operation that has triggered arrests and rescues across the globe. Legalbrief reports that what makes this case remarkable is that a specialist child abuse unit quietly took control of the Childs Play website, assuming the identity of its founder following his arrest for the rape of a four-year-old girl in the US. To maintain their cover, undercover detectives posted and shared abuse material. Other users continued to post and view images while the site was under police control. The site was created in April 2016, and had attracted more than 1m user registrations by the time police took it offline last month. The Guardian reports that about 100 ‘producers’ filmed the rape of children and shared videos and imagery with the Childs Play ‘community’. The Argos operation has now led to investigations by a dozen foreign countries into the site’s users. With permission from a judge, investigators could break the law by posting images and messages and continue to run the site. But assuming the identities of twisted child sex offenders affected even seasoned operators who have hunted hundreds of paedophiles. The Daily Mail reports that Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection group Bravehearts, said she supported their tactics because 'this is a war'. 'I support this 100% because the images that police would use would not be images that they create, they would be existing images,' she said. However, the mother of a young victim whose images were distributed across the site did not agree because it hurt her even more. 'My daughter should not be used as a bait. If they are using her images, then she should be paid or compensated for their use. It is not right for the police to promote these images,' she said.

Full report in The Guardian

Full Daily Mail report

William Beale (39), a Plettenberg Bay man who was snared in another global sting, was quoted as saying: ‘I know I should feel bad, but I don’t.’ He has pleaded guilty to nearly 19 000 charges of possession of child pornography. Colonel Bronwynn Stollarz, with the police investigative psychology unit, took the stand during sentencing proceedings in the Knysna Regional Court and testified these were his words during a consultation, says a Weekend Argus report. Beale was the first South African to have been arrested as part of Operation Cloud 9, which involved co-operation between South African and Belgian police responsible for cracking down on an international child pornography ring linked to a cyber meeting space for paedophiles whose fetishes seem to be the sexual abuse of babies. Some of the images found included the torture and murder of babies as young as only a few days old. When Beale was arrested police found sections of files containing thousands of videos and violent assaults as well Internet addresses of more than 300 alleged paedophiles. He pleaded guilty to about 19 000 charges of possession of child pornography in February following his arrest by international police in January 2015. He was subsequently released on R10 000 bail and relocated to Kimberley to live with his brother. Stollarz testified on Friday that she had come to the conclusion that Beale suffered from paraphilia (abnormal sexual desires). The matter was postponed to 23 October for heads of argument to be prepared before sentencing.

Full Weekend Argus report

In the US, a woman who made child porn videos which she sent to her husband has been jailed for 30 years for what police described as the ‘worst case’ of the crime they had seen in two decades. A report in The Independent notes that Anngela Boyle took photos and footage of four children aged just 12 months to nine years in her home in Detroit, Michigan, and forwarded the material to Colin Boyle. She also admitted that along with her husband she abused a one-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy at least four times. Her husband is already serving a 60-year jail term for the crimes. An investigator said it was the ‘worst case’ of child abuse he had probed in two decades. ‘This type of investigation will always rock a community to its core, and the gravity of the crime and the helplessness of the victims impacts even seasoned investigators,’ Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said.

Full report in The Independent

Staying in the US, actor Mark Salling appears to be taking some responsibility for his actions. Just weeks before the Glee star was set to stand trial in his ongoing child pornography case, E! News has learned that the actor has entered a plea agreement. He plans to plead guilty to possession of child pornography involving a minor. Salling has agreed to serve between four and seven years behind bars and will be under supervised release for 20 years. He will register as a sex offender and will pay restitution to each victim who has requested it. In 2016, he was charged in a federal indictment with allegedly receiving and possessing child pornography. ‘Those who download and possess child pornography create a market that causes more children to be harmed,’ US Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. ‘Young victims are harmed every time an image is generated, every time it is distributed, and every time it is viewed.’

Full report on the E! News site

In Germany, a man suspected of sexually abusing a four-year-old girl was identified and detained a few hours after authorities took the unusual step of publishing a photograph of the girl and calling on the public for help. The federal crime office said a 24-year-old German citizen was detained in his home in the northern county of Wesermarsch on Monday. A report on the News24 site notes that the abuse was filmed and photographed by the suspect, who then distributed the images on a child pornography platform on the so-called dark Net.

Full report on the News24 site