NewsCrime Desk

Child porn site users identified say gardai

Child porn site users identified say gardai

IRISH users of one of the largest child pornography websites in the world have been identified as part of an investigation into an international paedophile ring.

Earlier this week, the lead administrator of child sex abuse site Playpen, which had 150,000 users around the world, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in the US.

The closure of this site led to Operation Pacifier, one of the largest and most complex investigations ever undertaken in this field.

So far in Europe, 368 suspected child sex abusers have been arrested or convicted.

Gardai have confirmed that a number of investigations are ongoing here in relation to Operation Pacifier, but would not comment any further for operational reasons.

“We made enquires with the Garda National Protection Services Bureau,” a garda spokesperson said.

“They said it’s an ongoing operation and we’re not in a position to provide figures.”

It is unknown how many arrests have been made in Ireland, but previously it was revealed that 327 cases of online child sexual abuse imagery were confirmed in this country in 2015.

The Irish internet safety watchdog, ISPAI (Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland), said the number of suspected cases notified to Hotline.ie in 2015 rose to 3,153 – a 35pc increase on the previous year.

Within that figure, suspected cases of child sexual abuse material increased by 4pc, to 327.

According to Hotline.ie, 70pc of the suspected cases in 2015 depicted boys, up from 42pc in 2014.

Playpen was a website on the Darknet, part of the internet where users’ identities and locations are concealed from analysis through anonymisation techniques.

A few months after the website was created, in December 2014, the FBI arrested its three administrators.

The lead administrator was sentenced to 30 years in prison earlier this week in North Carolina.

The two others were each given 20 years.

The Playpen site was structured to allow its users to easily access a wide range of child exploitation and abuse material.

The posts themselves, and the latest updates to them, were published in an index, where descriptions made the content obvious.

This was designed to draw in those with such interests. In January 2015, with the support of Europol and many other worldwide law enforcement agencies, the FBI and US Department of Justice launched Operation Pacifier, in an effort to track down Playpen’s thousands of members.

Hundreds of follow-up investigations were started all over the world.

Europol’s role was to crosscheck, analyse and complete the data received in order to identify offenders mainly located in Europe.

This has so far resulted in 870 worldwide convictions and at least 259 sexually abused children being identified or rescued from their abusers outside of the US.

“Those individuals involved in the sexual abuse of children are becoming increasingly forensically aware and are actively using the most advanced forms of anonymisation and encryption to avoid detection,” said Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre head Steven Wilson.