Investigators shut down child abuse darknet platforms

02/03/2023Cybercrime, Darknet News, Europe, Germany

Investigators have shut down three platforms on the darknet in the fight against the spread of depictions of sexualized violence against children. Several suspects had been arrested.

Bavarian investigators have succeeded in striking a blow against operators of platforms on the darknet on which recordings of sexualized violence against children are alleged to have been disseminated. In the U.S., in Great Britain and in Germany, several suspects were arrested, announced the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) and the Central Office Cybercrime in Bamberg. They are said to have acted as administrators, programmers or moderators of the platforms.

Three darknet platforms had been shut down, the statement added. Several thousand users from Germany and abroad had been active there, spreading more than 20,000 images and videos per month and publishing 120,000 postings, it said.

Platforms targeted since November 2019

According to the report, the action was preceded by several years of intensive investigations. The officials had first become aware of the three platforms in November 2019. In the context of the evaluation of seized evidence, the Bavarian investigators would have established references to the U.S., to Great Britain as well as to Australia.

Thus, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had arrested an administrator and a programmer in the U.S. in the first half of 2022. In November, a main administrator was also arrested there, as well as two moderators in the UK.

In Bonn, officials arrested another moderator in early November. The 22-year-old, who is in pre-trial detention, is accused of, among other things, “gang-related making available” of child pornographic content in a large number of cases.

According to the LKA, all three darknet platforms were no longer accessible after the arrests and the conclusion of the international operation. So far, no member of the platform has succeeded in putting these sites back into operation.

Bamberg senior prosecutor Thomas Goger, head of the Center for Combating Child Pornography and Sexual Abuse on the Internet, which is based at the Central Office for Cybercrime, said LKA and the special prosecutor’s office had investigated meticulously and demonstrated staying power.

Numerous users of the platforms had also been identified, he added. For example, a 62-year-old man had already been arrested in Bavaria in May 2021, he said. According to the report, more than 800,000 images and videos were found on the man. According to officials, however, the criminal proceedings against him have not yet been completed.