For 2 Weeks, the FBI Ran a Child Porn Site
137 people face charges, but not everyone is pleased
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2016 7:05 AM CST
Playpen was shut down after the sting.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – From Feb. 20 to March 4 of last year, the FBI ran one of the largest child pornography sites on the dark web—a section of the Internet where people usually operate with anonymity—with the goal of using security-cracking software to identify users. Early last year, the site known as Playpen was traced to computers servers located in North Carolina; the FBI in February relocated the site to its own location in Newington, Va. Though the FBI didn't actually upload illicit content to the site, the FBI also didn't attempt to hide 9,000 downloadable images and videos and links to thousands more. The secret operation allowed agents to identify computer addresses for 1,300 of 100,000 users who visited the site over 13 days; 137 have since been charged, reports USA Today.

But not everyone is thrilled with how the sting went down. A lawyer for one of the men arrested, a former middle school teacher, likened the move to "flooding a neighborhood with heroin in the hope of snatching an assortment of low-level drug users," in a court filing requesting charges be dropped. It's not the first time the FBI has used such a ploy. In 2012, it took control of three child porn sites and kept them online to try to identify users. Agents aren't able to prevent the content from being copied and shared elsewhere. But "we had a window of opportunity to get into one of the darkest places on Earth, and not a lot of other options except to not do it," says a former agent who helped plan a previous site takeover. "There was no other way we could identify as many players." Read more at USA Today.