Multiagency Operation Shuts Down Online Child Abuse Platform
German police announced today that four individuals have been arrested in a multiagency operation targeting one of Europe’s most prolific child abuse platforms on the Dark Web, called “Boystown.”
Agencies in Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the United States—as well as Europol—participated in the takedown, which involved seven raids on buildings in Germany, resulting in the mid-April shutdown of the Dark Web site.
4 arrested in the takedown of #DarkWeb #childabuse platform, Boystown, with some half a million users.— Europol (@Europol) May 3, 2021
Several other chat sites were also seized in a multi-agency operation sparked by a German investigation with the cooperation of 🇳🇱 🇸🇪 🇦🇺 🇺🇸 & 🇨🇦 https://t.co/tB118ucLKg
Three suspects were arrested in Germany and one was arrested in Paraguay. The suspect in Paraguay, a German citizen, is expected to be extradited back to Germany, The International Business Times reports. The three main suspects, aged between 40 and 58 years, are accused of managing the platform as administrators, providing technical support and advice to site members on how to avoid discovery by authorities. The fourth suspect is accused of being one of the platform’s most prolific users, having posted more than 3,500 times since signing up to the platform in 2019, German police said.
According to Europol, the site focused on the sexual abuse of children and had 400,000 registered users when it was taken down. Offenders used the platform to exchange and watch pornography of children and toddlers—mostly boys—from all over the world, CTV News reports. Multiple other Dark Web chat sites used by child sexual offenders were also seized, as well as image and video data, which will be used for victim identification task forces.
“This 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,” according to a Europol press release. “Their reactions include resurrecting old communities, establishing new communities, and making strong efforts to organize and administer them.”
“This investigative success has a clear message: Those who assault the weakest aren’t safe anywhere,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. “That’s what investigators work for day and night, online and offline, globally.”