Officials in the US have dismantled a huge international online child pornography ring – one of the largest such operations ever uncovered, American authorities say.
They say that 14 men running a secret, members-only child porn website have been arrested.
About 250 children – mostly boys from the US – appeared on the site.
The website had more than 27,000 subscribers, many of whom have been charged in individual cases.
“Never before in the history of this agency have we identified and located this many minor victims in the course of a single child exploitation investigation,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale told Reuters news agency.
Ice worked with Homeland Security officials and other agencies to break up the ring, which ran a website to share videos of boys enticed from social networks into providing sexually explicit material – sometimes by men posing as women.
Ages of the children ranged in age from three to 17 years, officials said, and came from 39 US states. Twenty-three of the 251 victims were identified in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Belgium.
For all of its benefits, the dark side of the Internet is very, very dark. For years I was accused of being overly protective of my daughter when it came to even my own social media habits. But the online world is one big, sinister playground for some of the worst of society.