Hundreds arrested for 'dark web' child porn by international task force

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Yesterday, authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States announced that 337 suspected users in 38 countries were arrested following an investigation of a dark web child pornography site. The website was based in South Korea and accepted cryptocurrency as payment. Law enforcement agencies from Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States were part of the international task force. The current phase of investigation and arrests began in 2018.

The website after it was shuttered by authorities
Image: NCA. via Twitter

At the center of the case was a website known as "Welcome To Video" and its alleged operator Jong Woo Son from South Korea. According to authorities, the site hosted a quarter million video clips containing sexual abuse of children, including toddlers and infants. The site was said to have begun operations in June 2015. Authorities shuttered and seized the site in March 2018.

Jong Woo Son is already in prison in South Korea, but yesterday the United States Department of Justice unsealed further charges against him. United States Attorney Jessie K. Liu said, "Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims […] We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve."

Nikki Holland of the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) said, "Dark web child sex offenders — some of whom are the very worst offenders — cannot hide from law enforcement. They're not as cloaked as they think they are, they're not as safe as they think they are." It was the NCA's investigation of Matthew Falder which led to the discovery of the South Korean website.

Jong was arrested in March, 2018, but South Korea's National Police Agency when announcing the arrest in May, 2018 identified him only as "Mr. A" as the international investigation continued. Some of the site's users already pleaded guilty or were convicted before yesterday's announcements. Allegedly, Jong processed 7300 in membership fees and video purchases. As of this writing, one bitcoin is worth approximately US$8000 or 7000. The site also allegedly made use of Tor, a layered network designed to keep users anonymous.

US authorities claimed the site was the largest child pornography site in the world and that more than twenty active victims were rescued. Listed US states as having members from the site were: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. They also stated arrests were made in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Despite the lengthy lists provided, neither US nor British authorities delivered a complete list of the 38 countries they said were involved.


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