German Police Dismantle Darknet Child Pornography Network
German authorities said on Monday that they have shut down "one of the biggest darknet child pornography platforms in the world" which allowed users to share digital material "of the most serious sexual abuse of young children."
Germany's federal investigative police said the platform named "Boystown" was active since at least 2019, had over 400,000 members, and was set up for the “worldwide exchange of child pornography”.
For months, German authorities worked with Europol as well as Dutch, Swedish, Australian, U.S. and Canadian authorities to investigate and eventually shut down the network and its accompanying chat rooms.
“In addition to the forum area, there were two affiliated chat areas, which were used for communication between the members and for the exchange of child pornography abuse recordings of boys and girls. Various language channels were set up for this purpose in order to facilitate communication between the members,” the statement said.
Members were also given advice from the platform’s administrators on how to access the site “in the most secure way” and how best to avoid detection and subsequent criminal charges.
“The case illustrates what Europol is seeing in child sexual abuse offending: online child offender communities on the dark web exhibit considerable resilience in response to law enforcement actions targeting them. Their reactions include resurrecting old communities, establishing new communities, and making strong efforts to organise and administer them,” Europol said in a statement.
In mid-April, and following a series of raids and home searches, four German citizens between the ages of 40 and 64 were arrested and have since been in custody. Three are suspected site administrators, one of whom was located in Paraguay and has had an international arrest warrant placed on him in an attempt to have him extradited.
The fourth, aged 64, was arrested in Hamburg, and is suspected of being “one of the most active users of the platform” and contributing more than 3,500 posts.
Europol pledged that “more arrests and rescues are to be expected globally.”