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Playpen was only one of the sites used by the FBI.

For a two-week period in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation took over and ran a child porn website called Playpen, hoping to ensnare as many users as possible. Apparently that wasn’t the only child porn ring the FBI infiltrated and then kept alive.

At the time of the Playpen reveal, it was reported that the FBI’s new tactic of continuing to run a child porn website instead of shutting it down immediately had occurred at least twice. But now, it’s been revealed the FBI has used this tactic 23 times.

That’s according to an affidavit obtained by the ACLU, via Ars Technica. According to the affidavit:

In the normal course of the operation of a web site, a user sends "request data" to the web site in order to access that site. While Websites 1-23 operate at a government facility, such request data associated with a user's actions on Websites 1-23 will be collected. That data collection is not a function of the NIT [malware]. Such request data can be paired with data collected by the NIT, however, in order to attempt to identify a particular user and to determine that particular user's actions on Websites 1-23.

That seems to line up with the original report on the FBI’s takeover of Playpen in which it was shown that the bureau used the site to install malware on users' computers that would allow the FBI to identify their IP addresses, even though they were using the site on the anonymous Tor network.

One security researcher told Ars Technica that “it’s a pretty reasonable assumption” that the FBI, at one point, was running about half of all the recognized child porn sites on Tor.

“Doing the math, it’s not zero sites, it’s probably not all the sites, but we know that they’re getting authorization for some of them," Sarah Jamie Lewis told the website. "I think it’s a reasonable assumption—I don’t think the FBI would be doing their job if they weren’t.”

The FBI reportedly identified and arrested almost 200 suspects from the Playpen operation. But some of the evidence gathered in these FBI takeovers have been thrown out by federal judges because of unlawful searches.

Asked by Ars Technica if the FBI had run half of the child porn sites on Tor, FBI spokesman Christopher Allen said, “I would refer you to public documents on the Playpen investigation, in which we seized and operated a dark web child pornography site for a period of less than two weeks. That was an extraordinary investigation, and to my knowledge may be the only time that has occurred. So to suggest this is a common thing is patently not true.”

H/T The Hill

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