Hundreds of Dutch children in dark web child abuse networks

RTL Nieuws has gone undercover for several months in networks in the dark web where child abusers share images of their crimes and have uncovered horrific realities.  These child abuse networks are still active and being monitored by the police. 

Abuse images of 1,700 Dutch victims were found in dark web child abuse networks. The majority of these victims are young girls. Also, several videos of allegedly Dutch babies being abused were shared in these child abuse networks. Members also shared photos of naked children taken in public from changing rooms or swimming pools.

The research reports that Dutch members of these child abuse networks are specifically looking for Dutch child pornography. Most of the victims on these networks are Eastern European, and Asian and Dutch pedophiles find them less arousing.

RTL Nieuws also reported the growing popularity of “hurtcore”, child pornography that involves pain and humiliation with babies and toddlers. There are child abuse networks within the dark web that focus entirely on this form of gruesome abuse.

Why do pedophiles choose the dark web?

The dark web is a part of the internet that is not visible to search engines and requires the use of an anonymizing browser called Tor to be accessed. The Tor browser routes your web pages requests through a series of proxy servers operated by volunteers across the world, rendering your IP address unidentifiable and untraceable. You can buy everything you could think of without a trace: drugs, credit card numbers, counterfeit money.

This makes the dark web a hotbed of criminal activity. The fact that digital traces are not traceable and abuse images can be put in a digital vault makes the dark web a safe haven for pedophiles. These members believe they will never get caught by law enforcement and make sure to protect themselves.

RTL Nieuws’s research reports that they even share manuals on how to exchange child pornography safely. They also set up a form of hierarchy within the child abuse networks. Those in higher positions help others protect themselves by ensuring all abuse images shared are properly presented and scout for those selling abuse images, which is not allowed. VIP rooms are also available for members who want to share their abuse images with a selected private group of abusers. RTL Nieuws was unable to access these VIP rooms are to do so, “homemade material” must be shared, meaning new images of abuse. This makes it impossible for police to access, as well.

Police work

It is very difficult for law enforcement to track down child abusers on the dark web due to its lack of traceability. However, RTL Nieuws reports Dutch police are focusing on finding new material being shared on these child abuse networks. 10% to 20% of the images that are shared are new material, meaning the abuse is still occurring.

Ben van Mierlo, the head of the child pornography team told RTL Nieuws that there is a market for new material as new images encourage others to also commit abuse and to share new abuse images. His child porn team rescues around 170 children from abuse every year.

Featured image source: Pixabay/PublicDomainPictures

Lara Silva
Originally from Lisbon, Lara now lives as a Londener where she studies journalism. She enjoys writing about politics, news and culture. Her favorite hobbies include eating pizza, drinking portuguese beer and smashing the patriarchy.

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