Australian police were running the world’s largest child pornography website.
Undercover officers with Queensland police had taken over “Child’s Play” – the biggest child porn exchange on the Dark Web – between October 2016 and September 2017 and impersonated the administrators – even posting graphic images of child abuse themselves – in a bid to catch pedophiles.
Speaking in an interview with Norwegian newspaper VG, which investigated and broke the story, Jon Rouse, the head of Task Force Argos, which led an operation jointly conducted by the US, Canadian, and European authorities, said:
“We don’t create these sites. We do not want them to exist. When we do find them, we infiltrate and get as high as possible in the networks administrative structure to destroy it. But we will never create a forum for child sex offenders,”
Metro reports: Paedophiles had used the forum to exchange graphic footage and images of child rapes. The operation was uncovered after Norwegian newspaper VG traced some of the posts back to an office in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in January.
Taskforce Argos, a police unit focusing on child abuse, was being run from there. They had taken over the dark website in November 2016 and were pretending to be its founder Canadian Benjamin Faulkner.
He was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in Virginia, United States, in 2016. Inspector Jon Rouse, who is the commander of Argos, told the Guardian:
“Our team and units like ours across the world are singularly focused on stopping the sexual abuse of children and we will continue to work together to infiltrate, disrupt and dismantle child sex offender networks like this one.”
He said the Childs Play operation had led to arrests around the world and authorities were able to save young victims, but Insp Rouse criticised computer software like Tor that helped mask the identities of users. It wasn’t the first time Taskforce Argos had carried out this type of operation.
A similar operation was used to catch Richard Huckle in 2016, who was labeled the UK’s worst pedophile. Child’s Play was taken down in September but during its peak, it reportedly had one million registered users.
It was set up in April 2016. The investigations by VG and taskforce Argos are detailed in a new documentary. A spokesperson from Queensland Police told Metro.co.uk:
“In 2003, new legislation was introduced that paved the way for law enforcement operatives in Queensland to investigate and prosecute child sex offenders on the internet.
“Last year, this legislation was further strengthened with the introduction of new offenses that increased the police capability to infiltrate and prosecute the networks offenders create to facilitate the sexual abuse of children.
“Since the implementation of the initial legislation, the Queensland Police Service’s Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group (Argos) has arrested over 1,000 offenders on more than 15,000 charges.
“More than 500 children have been identified and removed from serious sexual abuse.
“Further to this, the work undertaken by the team has generated thousands of leads that have been passed on to law enforcement agencies across the globe, resulting in further arrests and the safe removal of children.
“The use of this legislation is bound by internal QPS policy and protocols. ‘As these methodologies are used successfully and form a fundamental part of the work Argos performs, the QPS will not comment further on their use.
“The team at Argos and the hundreds of officers working tirelessly in Child Protection Investigation Units across the state are steadfast in their dedication and commitment to preventing child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children.”