The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced the breakup of the largest ever online child abuse network, and announced 52 arrests in what it called Operation Delego.
Those arrested were some of the 600 members of a message board service called Dreamboard that required usernames, proxy servers and encryption keys from its members. The site's administrators were based in France and Canada.
"Operation Delego represents the largest prosecution in history of individuals who participated in an online child exploitation enterprise conceived and operated for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse, disseminating child pornography, and evading law enforcement," said US attorney general Eric Holder.
"I believe we're also sending a strong message to those who are willing to harm and exploit children, and who attempt to hide their activities from law enforcement. We will find you. We will stop you. And we will bring you to justice."
In all 43 people have been arrested in the US and nine overseas, including those accused of performing IT administration for the site, and there are warrants outstanding for another 20 people. So far 13 have pleaded guilty, and four have been given prison sentences of 20 to 30 years.
Holder reported that Dreamboard provided incentives by having different membership levels for those who uploaded more extreme images, including a Super VIP members list for those who recorded their own abuse. Members who did not upload new images were expelled from the site.
"Dreamboard was a living horror," said assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer, adding that it was "extreme even among online child abuse forums".
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