According to the Department of Justice, “The expansion of the Internet has led to an explosion in the market for child pornography.” This is nothing new to DeepDotWeb readers; we covered Operation Pacifier and continue to monitor those cases. Taskforce Argos took down The Love Zone, another CP forum—and we covered the arrests and the investigation itself. Now, after a controversial year with respect to internet CP, the FBI released their internal figures regarding online child pornography.
The FBI explained that investigations into CP cases take place through the Child Exploitation Task Forces—a multi-agency partnership with federal and state law enforcement. “Nearly 400 law enforcement partner organizations participate in these task forces,” the announcement explained. FBI intelligence analysts and subject matter experts work with the partner agencies, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
In reference to the offenders, the FBI explained that “their crimes are carried out on the so-called dark web—where they can remain anonymous—and their actions are unknown to spouses, families, and associates.”
Special Agent Eric Campbell explained that the darknet made locating the CP offenders significantly more difficult. They often, as seen in many of the high-profile Operation Pacifier cases, avoided any sort of criminal record or history. Recently, he said, the FBI examined a “particularly egregious website on Tor.” The website hosted 1.3 million images that displayed the sexual exploitation of children. On the site, a significant number of the children, especially those featured in particularly violent imagery.
“The producers and consumers of child pornography operate in the shadows, and anonymous Internet networks such as Tor often allow them to carry out their illicit activities without fear of being unmasked and caught,” Special Agent Campbell said.
Through a thorough investigation, the FBI identified 73 new victims. All 73 were previously unknown to law enforcement—NCMEC and various law enforcement agencies keep records of known victims. The records are used to keep track of the children and compare them against images pulled from newly discovered CP websites. Immigration and Customs Enforcement launched a tool called the Victim Identification Program “to combine technological and investigative capabilities and resources to recover child victims of sexual exploitation.”
NCMEC estimated that their analysts reviewed 26 million sexual abuse images and videos in 2015. While that number is undeniably high, law enforcement, since 2002, located and identified more than 10,500 abused children. NCMEC additionally reported that in 2015, internet users submitted 4.4 million CyberTipline reports.
“We are aggressively confronting evolving threats online by prosecuting those who use the so-called “Dark Net” in the service of child pornography and child sex trafficking, and by seeking to work closely with the private sector to ensure that state-of-the-art encryption technology is no shield for criminal activity.”