Teachers, police officers and scout leaders were among those arrested today by British police. Some 230 children were rescued from the sex ring, which had 70,000 members and was “probably the largest online pedophile network in the world,” said officials at the European police agency Europol.
The three-year investigation has also led officials to 670 suspected pedophiles from around the world including Australia, Brazil and the U.S.
The ring was operating in the site BoyLover.net, a “discussion-only” forum based out of the Netherlands where people shared their interest in young boys. Officials say members used the site to exchange videos and photos of children being abused.
Police warned others active on the site that more arrests will be coming.
“It is personally very rewarding when pedophiles are identified and arrested and children are rescued from abuse,” said Tim Henning, ASACP’s vice president of technology and forensic research.
“I am honored that ASACP could be part of this. We sent our first report to law enforcement about this site on Dec. 12, 2005, and there have been numerous reports since then. We are pleased that law enforcement was able to finally infiltrate this group and stop this outrageous and open abuse of children.”
Peter Davies, the U.K. police chief who heads the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, said the same technology that allowed the alleged pedophiles to engage in illegal activities helped authorities bust the ring.
“What we show today is that while these offenders felt anonymous in some way because they were using the Internet to communicate, the technology was actually being used against them,” he said.
“Everything they did online, everyone they talked to or anything they shared could and was tracked by following the digital footprint.”
Officials said those arrested will be investigated and brought to justice.