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Multijurisdiction effort sees sites blocked and the predators that use them tracked.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has announced that it has blocked 10 websites hosting child sexual abuse material, all of them hosted in the Cocos Keeling Islands.
The sites were first blocked on 10 October 2023, and since then, the AFP has successfully tracked “tens of thousands” of perpetrators from all over the world attempting to visit them. The sites hosted millions of images and videos between them.
The AFP was first alerted to the sites by the Shire of Cocos Keeling Islands – the islands are an Australian territory off the coast of Western Australia – in 2022, when an investigation was launched. The Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre, which the AFP leads, was a part of the operation to shut down the sites, as was the Shire of Cocos Keeling Islands, the Australian eSafety Commissioner, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, and an unnamed top-level domain administrator.
“These videos and images show real children being exploited, physically harmed and traumatised for the perverse gratification of offenders. Each time these files are shared, it perpetuates the harm caused to these children,” said AFP acting Commander Cybercrime Tim Stainton in a statement.
“Australian domain names should not, and will not, be a safe haven for this kind of horrible content.
“The AFP will use every tool in its arsenal, from website takedowns to seizing servers and arresting those who provide, access or distribute the material, to help keep children safe.”
Acting Commander Stainton also said that the AFP is working to identify the administrators of the site, as well as tracking the IP addresses of its visitors. Foreign visitors to the sites will be referred to the law enforcement in their resident countries.
eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant added that Australians should actively report any such material they find to eSafety.
“With our partners in law enforcement, we continue to chip away at one of the most distressing and abhorrent violations of human rights: the sexual abuse of children,” Inman Grant said.
“This challenge is of epic, global proportions, and I urge all Australians to help eradicate this content by reporting it to eSafety.gov.au. You can report anonymously and should only report the URL rather than store or screenshot the illegal content.”
Cocos (Keeling) Islands shire president Aindil Minkom was pleased with the outcome.
“The result of many months’ collaboration and working with the AFP and other agencies has proven to be a huge success, and we thank all those involved,” Minkom said in a statement.
According to the Internet Watch Foundation, the Cocos Keeling Islands is a popular top-level domain for operators of such sites due to how inexpensive it is to purchase a website domain.
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