Norwegian newspaper reveals Australian police ran child porn site Childs Play for 11 months | News | DW | 08.10.2017
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Norwegian newspaper reveals Australian police ran child porn site Childs Play for 11 months

Norway's biggest paper has revealed that Australian police secretly ran a major child pornography site. The paper discovered the sensitive operation during their own investigations of the darknet.

A Norwegian newspaper revealed in a major English-language investigative piece published on Saturday that Australian police ran a popular child pornography darknet website for almost a year.

An IT expert investigating for Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, known as VG, discovered in January 2017 that the child abuse site called Childs Play  was being hosted by police in the state of Queensland. VG made the discovery by exploiting a vulnerability in the site's code to reveal its IP address.

VG reporters flew to the city of Brisbane to confront police on why they were hosting one of the world's major child abuse image-and-video-sharing sites. They were told details of the operation on condition they did not publish until police were ready.

It turned out police had been running the site since October 2016 after the site's Canadian administrator, known as WarHead, was arrested in the US state of Virginia.

Read more: Europol, FBI arrest nearly 900 in crackdown on global pedophile ring

Running multiple sites

Police told VG they had been tracking WarHead, also known as Curiousvendetta, after discovering his true identity when he posted on a technical forum asking for help on code he was using on a separate child abuse site called Giftbox.

WarHead reportedly met up with Crazymonk, his co-administrator on the Giftbox site who was also being tracked by police, at a house in Virginia to rape a four-year-old girl on the invitation of a fellow forum user. That was when they were arrested by US police and handed over the keys to Childs Play.

Queensland's Argos Taskforce have built up a reputation for infiltrating and taking down child abuse websites and had been investigating the Giftbox site for some time. They also had a legal advantage over most Western police forces in their ability to commit offenses in pursuit of criminals. So the US Department of Homeland Security handed over the keys to the website to Argos, police told VG.

Argos reportedly took over the site and began impersonating WarHead, even posting abuse images until September 2017, when they quietly took the site down. The Norwegian outlet published soon afterwards. During this time police monitored communication on the site and altered code to unmask its users.

Read more: Alphabay and Hansa darknet markets shut down after international police operation

More than one million accounts

Police told the Norwegian journalists that their control of the site and its database of more than one million users yielded information that led to children being rescued and abusers being locked up.

The taskforce was now in the process of sending cases to police around the world. Police told VG that they had a list of between 60 and 90 people on their target list.

Read more: Police crack down on Norway's largest pedophile abuse network

Police in another unnamed country were reported to have a list of nearly 900 to be arrested.

More than a dozen children were rescued by Canadian police, who also referred 100 cases to other countries, according to VG.

The two men, Canadian Benjamin Faulkner and American Patrick Falte, who met up to rape the four-year-old girl in Virginia and who were accused of running the sites Childs Play and Giftbox, were sentenced to life in prison for the Virginia abuse. Their involvement in the darknet sites was still to come before the courts.

VG has launched a documentary on Childs Play and an interactive website covering the story.

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