1301908_Gannon,C_2023.pdf (2.46 MB)
Child sexual abuse material on the darknet
journal contributionposted on 2024-01-10, 04:16 authored by Colm GannonColm Gannon, AAJ Blokland, S Huikuri, KM Babchishin, RJB Lehmann
By routing traffic through a random combination of servers worldwide, the darknet obfuscates the identity of its users, making it an attractive medium for journalists, dissidents, and individuals committing crimes. Since 2008, access to the darknet has been facilitated by the The Onion Router (TOR) browser, bringing the darknet within reach of an increasingly wider audience. Tens of thousands of darknet forums serve the criminal needs of millions of users each day and hundreds of these darknet forums are especially dedicated to the exchange of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). Practitioners who work with men with sexual offences may therefore face individuals whose sexual offences occurred partly or wholly in the darknet. In the current review article, we summarize both the scientific literature and evidence obtained from CSAM forum “take-downs,” to describe the organization of darknet CSAM forums and the activities of their members. These forums report large and international memberships of individuals who, much like mainstream social media, interact online on a regular basis, creating large, online communities in which like-minded individuals can socialize and barter CSAM with minimal risk of discovery. Not all forum members contribute equally to the community, and especially administrators appear indispensable for the proper functioning of the CSAM forum. Implications for future research and law enforcement are discussed.