NBC News is reporting today that federal agents have shut down the world’s “largest dark web child porn marketplace.”
The article reports:
The now-shuttered English-language site, called “Welcome to Video,” contained more than 200,000 unique videos or almost 8 terabytes of data showing sex acts involving children, toddlers and infants, according to the 18-page criminal indictment unsealed here Wednesday, and processed 7,300 Bitcoin transactions worth more than $730,000.
According to prosecutors, the vast online store was run by Jong Woo Son, a South Korean citizen currently serving an 18-month prison sentence in his home country after his conviction on charges related to child pornography. The site operated from June 2015 until it was seized and shut down by U.S. authorities in March 2018.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, U.S. officials said 337 suspected users of the site had been arrested worldwide to date.
…In addition to Son, more than 300 other suspects have been arrested in South Korea as of Wednesday, while still more suspects were identified in other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, including a Washington, D.C., man who was caught with the equivalent of 50 years worth of video footage he had downloaded.
The website ran solely on the dark web, a section of the internet that can only be accessed via a Tor browser, which is designed to protect users’ tracks online and obscure digital footprints. Users could purchase videos using cryptocurrency and an annual membership was priced at 0.03 bitcoins (at current exchange rates, around $300).
The article concludes:
When they announced the arrest of “Mr. A” in 2018, the South Korean police also said they had arrested a total of 156 South Koreans for either uploading or downloading child porn materials, which was unusual given that the site operated entirely in English.
“Most of the users were in their 20s, unmarried and white-collar office workers and first-time offenders, although some were ex-convicts of sexual crimes, including juvenile sex offenders. One possessed as many as 48,634 child porn [files],” the KNPA said.
Paul Henkins, head of the Americas region for the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, said at the Wednesday press conference that 18 investigations of alleged site users had yielded seven convictions, with one defendant sentenced to 22 years.
The case, Henkins said, demonstrates the “increase in the scale, severity and complexity of child sexual abuse offending.”
Hopefully the people arrested will spend the rest of their lives in prison.