It has widely been reported that sex offenders have been avoiding detection whilst using the internet through the use of the “dark net” and, following a BBC investigation, the BBC has reported that “tens of thousands of paedophiles are using the so-called dark net to trade images of sexual abuse”.
So what is it the dark net and how is this abuse going undetected?
The dark net is a term used to refer to a hidden private internet that is located beneath the normal internet search engines and which cannot be accessed without the use of special software. One such software was originally designed by the US Military to provide governments with secure and confidential internet use. However, due to the anonymity offered by such software, the dark net has become a popular avenue for criminals, including sexual predators, to commit crimes and remain anonymous.
An example of a dark net user was reported by BBC News; the BBC ‘contacted a man who ran a site on the dark net for paedophiles to swap images of child sexual abuse. The man used untraceable email and encrypted messages and confirmed that he was confident that the police couldn’t find him’.
It is of real concern that sex offenders and sexual predators have so much confidence that they can view images of sexual abuse and get away with it and more concerning still is that the BBC has also reported that some sites received 500 views a page every second.
Users of the dark net are able to remain anonymous as the software makes a PC’s IP address untraceable. The anonymity offered by the dark net has meant that viewing images of sexual abuse could go undetected. However, with the National Crime Agency (“NCA”) having reported the arrest of 660 paedophiles with around 9,172 computers, phones and hard drives being searched, NCA has shown a positive step towards the detection and arrest of offenders trading in images of sexual abuse on the internet and dark net. The NCA deputy director general, Phil Gormley, has stated that sex offenders can no longer avoid detection while using the internet, even on the so-called “dark net”.
The NCA has reported that more than 400 children across the UK have been safeguarded as a result of their investigation.