A child pornography bust in Italy, carried out by both the Postal and Communication Police as well as the CNCPO (National Center for Combating Child Pornography on-line), lead to 21 search warrants being issued, five of which resulted in subsequent arrests. The arrests took place in Lombardy, Tuscany, Trentino Alto Adige and Lazio, an Italian news agency claims. The remaining individuals were not proven to be in possession of any illegal material at the time of the searches, even though it had been proven they were involved in sharing and downloading. They had likely deleted the material before the raid, police believe.
In 2015, Europol and Beligian Police were able to use a hash file to track communications between the pornography ring and then the information was submitted to Italian authorities where the sting was carried out.
Italian Postal and Communication Police and the National Center for Combating Child Pornography Online conducted the sting where the massive amount of illegal material was found. The five who were arrested were found with information stored locally, either on their PC or, like one grandfather who was arrested, on at least 47 flash drives scattered around his home. One of the arrests happened while an individual was caught in the act – he was sharing over 600 files with someone, who, as the article points out, lived at home with his parents. Out of the five arrests, four had completely clean records and only one had any criminal history but it was unrelated to child pornography.
The information on the demographics of those arrested is interesting as it goes along with what the General Director of the Italian National Police said in 2010 – in a document regarding methods and measures in place to catch active pedophiles – using the internet as a medium.
In the last decade, internet child pornography has changed from an emerging phenomenon, mainly restricted to psychotic individuals to a serious criminal threat in which perverse drives and commercial motivations are combined.
Among those caught were, as I mentioned before, a grandfather of two young children, an electrical engineer, a former postal worker, and the individual living in the same house as his parents. None of them had criminal records related to child pornography.
Italian law enforcement has had run-ins with the deepweb before; in 2015 they took down the “Babylon” market, which, at the time, was one of the more extreme mainstream markets. It was taken down in an investigation on child pornography online, something that Babylon market openly allowed to be sold. It was one of the few markets that allowed weapons since the removal of Silk Road, resulting in it attracting attention more attention than desired. After the discovery and take-down of Babylon market, it was called an “incredible criminal world, parallel to Internet, which paradoxically represents only a small part of the communications taking place over the Web.”
We aren’t aware of any specific marketplace in the sting, or even if any marketplace was involved as Italy takes a very firm stance on crimes against children and has services that crawl the web and report. Italian law enforcement keeps reports of child pornography, all reported by either the police, citizens, and a content filter. This information is either used in an investigation or passed on to international authorities. ISPs are passed along the URLs of offending sites so that they can be blacklisted in an attempt to keep the crime under control.
You can read about the Italian bust of the Babylon marketplace here.