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The international online pedophile network, sadistically named “Playpen,” has more than 150,000 users worldwide, according to the FBI.

A press release published by the bureau Friday states that 58-year-old Steven Chase of Florida started the website on the dark web via the Tor network — which masks the IP addresses of users and is a haven for illegal activity.

Chase’s website hosted thousands of images and videos of children, and in a strenuous FBI investigation, Chase and hundreds of users have been busted. The FBI stated that the investigation represents the “most successful effort to date against users of Tor’s hidden service sites.”


Steven Chase, Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office

Chase’s website hosted thousands of images and videos of children, and in a strenuous FBI investigation, Chase and hundreds of users have been busted. The FBI stated that the investigation represents the “most successful effort to date against users of Tor’s hidden service sites.”

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The FBI maintains a constant presence on the Tor network, and when Chase accidentally let the Playpen IP address out, they managed to nab him. The bureau also managed to take down the site, and Chase was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday. Two other administrators on the site each received 20-year sentences.

In an investigation termed “Operation Pacifier,” agents followed thousands of leads and enlisted the help of foreign police agencies and nabbed users in Israel, Turkey, Peru, Malaysia, Chile, Ukraine and all over Europe and the United States. According to the Australian Broadcasting Service, “Investigators hacked and tracked site users by sending malware to their computers.”

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According to the bureau, as of Friday, “Operation Pacifier” has yielded:

  • At least 350 U.S.-based individuals arrested
  • 25 producers of child pornography prosecuted
  • 51 hands-on abusers prosecuted
  • 55 American children successfully identified or rescued
  • 548 international arrests, with 296 sexually abused children identified or rescued

Critics of the investigation question its legality. Special agent Dan Alfin explained, “It’s the same with any criminal violation: As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.” Alfin also said that the investigation is ongoing, and hopefully, will yield more arrests.

Alex Thomas About the author:
Alex is from Delaware. He lives in DC.
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