US News Hundreds held in dark web child pornography crackdown
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Hundreds of people have been arrested worldwide after a dark web child pornography site that sold gruesome videos for digital cash was seized and shut down.
The site's alleged ringleader, a 23-year-old South Korean named Jong Woo Son, along with 337 users in 12 different countries, have been charged so far.
The South-Korea based website, called Welcome To Video, relied on the bitcoin cryptocurrency to sell access to 250,000 videos of child sexual abuse, including young children being raped.
Its upload page specifically stated: "Do not upload adult porn", according to authorities.
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Officials from the US, Britain and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had ever encountered.
337 suspects have been arrested globally in multi-agency operations after a dark web child abuse site – containing more than 250,000 horrific videos – was taken down by an international taskforce set up by the NCA— National Crime Agency (NCA) (@NCA_UK)
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US assistant attorney general Brian A Benczkowski said: "Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behaviour."
At least 23 underage victims who were being actively abused by the site's users have been rescued in the US, Britain and Spain, the Justice Department said.
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Many children in the videos have not yet been identified.
The site had a vast library of images never seen before by law enforcement, and is an example of what authorities say is an explosion of sexual abuse content online.
Britain's National Crime Agency said officials were seeing "increases in severity, scale and complexity".
The site is one of the first websites to monetise child pornography using bitcoin, which allows users to hide their identities during financial transactions.
"These are the bottom feeders of the criminal world," said Don Fort, chief of criminal investigation at the US Internal Revenue Service, which launched the investigation.
The site collected at least $370,000 worth of bitcoin before it was shut down in March 2018.
Darknet websites such as Welcome To Video are designed to be impossible to locate online, and is not yet clear how authorities managed to locate and bring down the site.
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