Europol’s Deepweb Child Porn Investigation Nets 75 Arrests

A year-long investigation into an undisclosed child pornography site on the deepweb has led to 75 arrests since August 23rd, according to Europol. The investigation, known as “Operation Daylight,” involves suspects in over 25 countries with 207 open cases.

Operation Daylight was launched in 2015 after Swiss police notified Europol of the discovery of a massive network of criminals involved in producing and distributing child pornography online.

Tine Hollevoet, a spokesman for Europol, told the media that “Europol received the information in June 2015 from the Swiss authorities and disseminated intelligence packages in July 2015. Based on that intelligence, separate investigations were initiated in the concerned countries.”

Europol spokeswoman Claire Georges goes even further, saying that the year-long investigation led to 611 “intelligence packages” being sent to 26 countries coordinating with Europol.

Norway and Switzerland were major contributors in the investigation, she claims. The intelligence packages contained IP addresses of the perpetrators. In many cases, the packages included information relating to their relevant identities on the “Dark Web” through the Tor network.

Such networks “continue to be a primary source for persons with a sexual interest in children who are seeking child sexual abuse and exploitation material online,” she added.

Italian police, who have also been in coordination with Europol for Operation Daylight, released a statement notifying the public that many of those arrested were unknown to law enforcement nor been previously implicated in criminal activity.

“All above suspicion and many of them older than 50, they secretly contributed to this despicable network from the confines of the four walls of their homes, always paying maximum attention to source the latest material,” the statement included.

This ring has had a “worrying and growing” trend of sexual abuse of children younger than 18-months-old. It is uncommon for children of such a young age to be victims or the primary interests of a child pornography network, Georges explains.

“Targeting those involved in child sexual abuse and exploitation material is a key part of what Europol does,” according to Europol’s EC3 cybercrime center head Steven Wilson. “We know that individuals are abusing online platforms and networks to distribute child sexual abuse material and are determined to target them and bring them to justice,” he added.

International child pornography investigations are a growing concern for law enforcement, especially now that encryption methods such as Tor are becoming the norm.

However, as the trend of deepweb child pornography distribution grows, so does the law enforcement’s ability to hunt down and prosecute the owners and viewers of these sites. The FBI’s Operation Pacifier and Australia’s take-down of “The Love Zone” are two of the most recent examples of the law enforcement’s increased vigilance in this area of activity.

“The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are expected [to be made],” Georges concluded.

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