Content Matching Helps Police Bust Dark Web Sex Trafficking Ring
September 4, 2015
The Dark Web is not only used to buy and sell illegal drugs, but it is also used to perpetuate sex trafficking, especially of children. The work of law enforcement agencies working to prevent the abuse of sex trafficking victims is detailed in a report by the Australia Broadcasting Corporation called “Secret ‘Dark Net’ Operation Saves Scores Of Children From Abuse; Ringleader Shannon McCoole Behind Bars After Police Take Over Child Porn Site.” For ten months, Argos, the Queensland, police anti-pedophile taskforce tracked usage on an Internet bulletin board with 45,000 members that viewed and uploaded child pornography.
The Dark Web is notorious for encrypting user information and that is one of the main draws, because users can conduct business or other illegal activities, such as view child pornography, without fear of retribution. Even the Dark Web, however, leaves a digital trail and Argos was able to track down the Web site’s administrator. It turned out the administrator was an Australian childcare worker who had been sentenced to 35 years in jail for sexually abusing seven children in his care and sharing child pornography.
Argos was able to catch the perpetrator by noticing patterns in his language usage in posts he made to the bulletin board (he used the greeting “hiya”). Using advanced search techniques, the police sifted through results and narrowed them down to a Facebook page and a photograph. From the Facebook page, they got the administrator’s name and made an arrest.
After arresting the ringleader, Argos took over the community and started to track down the rest of the users.
” ‘Phase two was to take over the network, assume control of the network, try to identify as many of the key administrators as we could and remove them,’ Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said. ‘Ultimately, you had a child sex offender network that was being administered by police.’ ”
When they took over the network, the police were required to work in real-time to interact with the users and gather information to make arrests.
Even though the Queensland police were able to end one Dark Web child pornography ring and save many children from abuse, there are still many Dark Web sites centered on child sex trafficking.