Last week a Gold Gate Estates man was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a September trial in North Carolina. The story didn’t get much coverage here, since the case was tried out of state (where the websites were being hosted), but he was running his dark-net website Playpen from his computer right here in Southwest Florida. The website may have been the largest child pornography distributor in the world, with up to 250,000 members.
The bust led to an international sting, dubbed “Operation Pacifier”, that netted almost 900 child pornography arrests around the world and some 250+ children victims were identified and/or rescued. That operation has led to a lot of coverage, both due to the success in taking down such a large number of child predators, but also for the criticism of the techniques used by the government. The FBI kept the Playpen site up and running and continuing to distribute child pornography as investigators sought to trace the sites users, going as far to infect them with malware that allowed them to be tracked. We have discussed the legal privacy concerns, and the concerns the federal government running child porn sites (a LOT of them), previously on this blog. The concerns are not unfounded, as there have already been cases where judges rejected using malware to search computers even when the location is unknown.
That didn’t save Chase, who has been locked away for 30 years, with a lifetime of supervision when he gets out. This will qualify him as a sex offender, and the additional sex-offender reporting that legally requires as well.