The investigation into the “dark web” pornography site, Welcome to Video, led to 337 arrests spanning 38 countries. The site was taken down by an international task force spearheaded by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) in collaboration with agencies in the U.S., South Korea, and Germany. The operation also led to the recovery of 23 minor victims who were being actively abused. In the United States, 92 individuals had their residences and business search as a result of the investigation.
Since the advent of the internet, trafficking has increasingly moved online, endangering young children more than ever before. Facilitation of such websites is due in large part to the advent of cryptocurrencies, and Welcome to Video was one of the first to utilize bitcoin in online trafficking. At the time of its takedown, the site was the largest child sexual exploitation market. The 250,000 videos commercialized child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) were downloaded over a million times.
The dark net is widely used in the trafficking of illegal goods and content; encryption tactics allow for the posting and selling of CSAM. However, Welcome to Video’s takedown is a sign that dark web child sex offenders cannot hide from law enforcement. The dark web platform was discovered through an NCA investigation into a single offender. Officials were able to analyze cryptocurrency transactions, revealing hundreds of buyers around the globe. Although this marks a great victory against dark net trafficking, the issue grows more complicated and insidious by the day.
Millions of videos and images of children are uploaded daily to sites like Welcome to Video, often featuring very young children. A 2018 study on CSAM by INTERPOL and ECPAT International found that younger victims are more likely to experience extreme abuse. The takedown of this site is one victory in a larger puzzle. International offensives must continue against dark web sites that profit on CSAM, for this issue spans the entire globe.