Justice Dept. says it’s taken down ‘world’s largest’ child exploitation sites on the dark web

The Justice Department says it has dismantled one of the largest child exploitation sites on the dark web.

With the help of international partners in the U.K. and South Korea, U.S. prosecutors have brought charges against a South Korean citizen, Jong Woo Son, for conspiracy to advertise, produce and distribute child abuse imagery.

Son was charged in August 2018 but the indictment was only unsealed Wednesday. NBC News was first to report the indictments.

The site contained more than 250,000 unique videos — some 8 terabytes of data — involving children.

Prosecutors said the site was only accessible on the dark web, a term used for an encrypted and anonymized version of the internet that’s accessible through services like the Tor anonymity network. Investigators identified the real-world internet location of the site by viewing the source of the website, which pointed to a server hosted at the defendant’s residence in South Korea.

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, assistant attorney general. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to working closely with our partners in South Korea and around the world to rescue child victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes.”

More than three-dozen other individuals involved with the site have also been arrested and charged under various state and national laws.