One of the world’s largest dark web child pornography websites has been shut down following an international investigation, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) announced on Monday. Known as “Boystown,” the child abuse service, which first surfaced in June 2019, was home to more than 400,000 registered users.
The months-long investigation into Boystown, spearheaded by German federal police, was aided by law enforcement agencies in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States.
In a press release on the takedown, Europol announced that it had arrested four German men in connection with the site and expects more arrests in the near future.
“The image and video data seized during this investigation will be used for Victim Identification Taskforces organised on a regular basis at Europol,” the press release reads. “More arrests and rescues are to be expected globally as police worldwide examine the intelligence packages compiled by Europol.”
Three of those arrested, according to German federal police, were directly involved in running the website. Boystown not only offered a forum but also two chat services that allowed users to trade images and video.
The fourth individual arrested has been accused of being one of the site’s most active users, allegedly making more than 3,500 posts during his time on Boystown.
Europol warned that despite the significant takedown, the child abuse market will almost certainly reorganize in the coming months.
“The case illustrates what Europol is seeing in child sexual abuse offending: online child offender communities on the dark web exhibit considerable resilience in response to law enforcement actions targeting them,” Europol added. “Their reactions include resurrecting old communities, establishing new communities, and making strong efforts to organise and administer them.”
The removal of Boystown comes less than two years after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the takedown of “Welcome to Video,” believed at the time to be the dark web’s largest child pornography site.