Thanks to @LawFag for making me aware of this story a few moments ago. The BBC are reporting that Police from around the world say they have broken up the largest Internet paedophile ring yet discovered. According to the report, detectives say 170 people have so far been arrested – and 121 of them were in the UK. Clearly, more arrests are to follow. Some 60 children have been ‘protected’ in the UK. Interestingly, the report indicates that the whole operation has been based on infiltrating one online site/network. The members of the network apparently went into a private channel, boylover.net, and then used its secret systems to share films and images. The Police were present within these networks and posed as paedophiles to gather intelligence.
The vast spread of ages amongst paedophiles is once again demonstrated with the revelation that in the UK, the 240 suspects are aged between 17 and 82 years old. They include police officers, youth leaders and teachers. No indication is given of gender, but it would be reasonable to assume the majority will be men.
I remarked on Twitter that I know a number of academics who want to question the current policy and policing approach but daren’t for fear of being labelled as themselves possessing some ‘abnormal’ tendencies. I’ve always steered clear of this area of research but I do find it worthy of comment to observe that the police were active in the network. It will be interesting to see the extent to which the police actively encouraged the sharing of information and photography over this network. Did the Police themselves engage in acts of image distribution and reproduction in order to entice the suspects into exchanging information and images? This is a real sticky wicket for law but such nuances are lost on the public and the media. Consequently, such arguments are unlikely to get very far in a court-room.
Censored transcripts have been published in the US of some investigations. It would be interesting to see similar transcripts of this investigation. Similarly, I’m struck by the high-number of children that seem to have been, in the language of the police ‘rescued’. This suggests a far closer linkage between image sharing and ‘real-world’ criminal activity than is ordinarily assumed. A final aspect that shines out, is the use of ‘boylover’. In America thanks to the long-established North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), the term ‘boy lover’ is much more established in the public consciousness and associated with paedophilia. This is (I think) the first time the term has been used in such a high profile way within the British media. it will be interesting to see the long-standing effect that has.
Clearly, more detail has yet to come out, but I think there’s going to be a lot more discussion in the media as we move from investigation into prosecution. The Police will be hoping that the mere news of these arrests and the way the operation has been conducted will scare the hell out of many paedophiles, and those interested (in whatever way) with inter-generational sex. I suspect many boylover sites will see a short-term drop in access but it’s foolish to think that people who have a sexual orientation towards children will be ‘scared’ out of that orientation in a long-term way. This remains a difficult and complex area that lawmakers and the police are barely scratching the surface of.