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Domains Seized in US Federal Action Against Child Exploitation

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A new initiative to remove websites hosting images of child sexual abuse hit hard on Tuesday with Operation Protect Our Children. The Justice Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) announced the seizure of 10 domain names of websites displaying images of child exploitation.

The operation to remove the websites began with a seizure warrant for the domain names that had been displaying advertisements dipicting images of child sexual abuse or engaged in the distribution of materials that exploit children. Some of the websites had been hosting hundreds of photos of children. The websites have since been replaced with a banner notifying that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made the announcement and spoke about the collaborative commitment to protect children from predators with this action involving the cooperation of many agencies. The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and NCMEC assisted ICE HSI in the identification of the websites that had been dedicated to the advertisement and distribution of the images of child sexual abuse.

“For all its positive impact, the Internet has also unfortunately created a new way for child predators to commit their inexcusable crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The production and distribution of child pornography wreak havoc on innocent lives. With these domain seizures, we are taking our fight against child pornography to websites that facilitate the exchange of these abusive images.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had this to say, "Each year, far too many children fall prey to sexual predators and all too often, these heinous acts are recorded in photos and on video and released on the Internet. DHS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to shut down websites that promote child pornography to protect these children from further victimization.”

As part of a similar intiative known as Operation Predator, Fred Woolum of Lexington, Va., was sentenced on February 15 in the Western District of Pennsylvania to 15 years in prison and a lifetime of supervision on his release for his part in a child exploitation enterprise. Court documents and proceedings described how Woolum and others had distributed images and videos of children being sexually abused to other members of an international Internet group that had restricted membership. The group had formed through contact on a social networking website. Members of the group distributed to one another thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children.

Operation Goodbye, a multi-year HSI cyber investigation based in Pittsburgh, specifically targeted the predator group Woolum was engaged with. This targeted action forms part of the larger national initiative Operation Predator, an ongoing enforcement effort targeting those who prey upon and sexually exploit U.S children-including Internet pornographers, international sex tourists, and foreign national sexual predators.

If you see or suspect any suspicious activity contact the ICE-HSI toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.   Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.

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