FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Darkweb Child Porn Moderator Sentenced to 20 Years Behind Bars

This week a moderator for a major darkweb child pornography internet repository was sentenced to 20 years in prison, as well as lifetime monitoring upon release, for his involvement with the site, which is nothing less than shocking. David L. Browning, the convicted moderator, was required to delete anything from the site, Playpen, that did not relate to child pornography, including images, videos, and even discussions.

Browning is not the first Playpen-related conviction. A site administrator, Michael Fluckiger, was sentenced to 20 years just a few weeks ago, and another administrator, Steven Chase, is currently awaiting sentencing. In addition to these 3, there were 48 other individuals prosecuted as a result of their involvement with Playpen.

What Is the Darkweb and Deepweb?

Recently, the terms darkweb and deepweb have made news headlines as law enforcement have been catching up on the technology criminals are utilizing to stay hidden online. The deepweb simply refers to websites that do not get indexed by search engines, which means these sites won't turn up in a Google or Yahoo search.

Whereas the darkweb refers to places online that search engines cannot reach as they require users to have specific knowledge about how to access the site, and frequently require the use of specific encryption keys. While there are legitimate uses for both, these forms of communication continue to gain popularity among criminals, especially those that operate online.

Child Pornography Digital Sting

In 2015, the FBI located the Playpen servers in North Carolina. However, rather than immediately take the server down so site users could no longer access the illegal content, the FBI loaded their own malware that traced the IP addresses of the site's users. The Bureau allowed the server to run for another two weeks, just letting their malware gather information. As a result of the digital sting, the FBI made over 50 arrests.

Surprisingly though, several prosecutions were dropped over the concern that the source code of the malware would have to be released, which could allow sophistacted online criminals to gain the upper hand.

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