The FBI stated in a press release that a man from Florida who was running Playpen, the biggest child porn site on the dark web, has been sentenced to prison for 30 years.
The creator and the admin of Playpen was arrested in February of 2015. His home in Naples, Florida, contained thousands of pictures that depicted sexually abused children.
He was found guilty of involvement in a child exploitation business and for possessing, advertising and transporting child porn on the dark web.
Darknet Child Pornography Site
The other two co-defendants in the case pleaded guilty and they received a sentence of 20 years earlier this year for being involved in Playpen. According to David Browning, one of the defendants, Playpen contained 215,000 user accounts and had distributed about 50,000 pictures and videos related to child pornography on the dark web.
Steven W. Chase created Playpen on the Tor network, which internet users can use for anonymous communication and browsing.Websites that offer hidden or illegal services exist within this dark web network.
FBI notes state that Chase started the website in summer 2014. Soon after that, the FBI launched an investigation that at first did not lead to much information since Playpen was hosted on a Tor service hidden for months.
Later, the FBI got a tip from a law enforcement organization which contained Chase’s IP address.
The investigations continued and eventually the FBI issued search warrants for the site’s email accounts—all of which led them to Chase, according to FBI Special Agent Dan Alfin.
After arresting the admin and creator of the darknet child pornography site, Playpen, the FBI partnered with the Justice Department to launch another operation, dubbed Operation Pacifier.The FBI then went after several other members of Playpen using an investigative strategy approved by the court.
Agents found several IP addresses for identifying and locating other users, eventually obtaining more than 1,000 leads in the U.S. and overseas. Following this, hundreds of people were arrested, both in and outside of the country, and prosecuted with 55 American children being rescued.
There were arrests reported in Turkey, Malaysia, Chile, Ukraine and others. Members of the enterprise who are still producing child pornography on the dark web are continuing to be prosecuted, according to Alfin.
The Playpen site has been taken down and the investigation is still ongoing as of early May 2017. Though the site has been down for more than two years, there are many others that continue to operate in similar ways and are spread on the dark web.
The campaign is ongoing, according to Alfin, and the FBI is trying to address the problem to the best of its abilities. As criminals get smarter, the FBI also adapts and tries to outsmart them in the cat-and-mouse game.
The case arresting Chase was followed by several other investigations and it is unprecedented in its wide reach, according to FBI representatives. It presents the most successful of efforts on the FBI’s part against dark web crimes.
The case is also useful, as it has led to several other means of international cooperation in the FBI’s attempts to prosecute those indulging in child pornography and abuse all over the world.
According to Dan Alfin, the FBI was able to pull off such a successful operation due to the support from international offices and partners.