Europol Just Took Down One of the World’s Largest Dark Web Child Porn Sites

An international investigation took down Boystown, a child sexual abuse site with over 400,000 registered users.
May 3, 2021, 2:31pm
europol
Image: Ilvy Njiokiktjien/AFP via Getty Images

European Union law enforcement announced Monday morning that an international operation had successfully taken down Boystown, a dark web child pornography site with over 400,000 registered users. 

The months-long investigation was headed by German federal police but included law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Europol, and the United States, according to Europol’s press release. 

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In its own separate press release, German federal police described Boystown as “one of the world's largest child pornography darknet platforms.” 

So far, three German men who were alleged administrators of the site and involved “in the technical implementation of the darknet site, the establishment and maintenance of the server structure, and member support on the platform” had been arrested in connection with the investigation. A fourth man, who had allegedly posted to the site 3,500 times and was described by law enforcement as one of its “most active users” was also arrested.  

According to German federal police, Boystown initially went online in June of 2019 and was split between a forum area and two chat services, Lolipub and BOYSPUB, all of which facilitated the sharing of images and videos of child sexual abuse. In an alleged screenshot of the forum section of the platform shared by Federal German police, a number of categories can be seen including “Art,” “Hardcore,” “Kingergarten,” and “Toddler,” each with thousands of posts. Another alleged screenshot of the Lolipub login page shows a number of rules, such as “May not promote Hurtcore” and “Cannot be rude, racist, or political.” 

Boystown is not the only platform of its kind. In June of 2015, the FBI conducted a massive operation against Playpen, a child pornography platform with over over 215,000 registered accounts. Controversially, the FBI later ran parts of the site from its own servers for two weeks in order to hack visitors and record their real IP addresses. 

As of now, the technical details of the investigation that took down Boystown has yet to be revealed, but Europol did say that more arrests and victim rescues are to be expected. 

Europol conceded, however, that extinguishing online child sexual abuse forums and platforms continues to be challenging for law enforcement. 

“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 wrote. “Their reactions include resurrecting old communities, establishing new communities, and making strong efforts to organise and administer them.”