'Welcome To Video', And The Take Down Of The World’s Largest Online Child Sexual Exploitation


From the name 'Welcome To Video', it doesn't suggest anything sinister. Its upload page even specifically stated: "Do not upload adult porn."

But as a matter of fact, everything is a contrast when digging inside the dark web website. This is because 'Welcome To Video' was a website considered, and dedicated to the world’s “largest child sexual exploitation market.”

According to a criminal indictment, the now-defunct English-language website featured over eight terabytes worth of 250,000 child exploitation videos, child sexual abuse, including footage of extremely young children being raped, authorities said.

'Welcome To Video' was live from June 2015 until March 2018, and during that time, users of the site were given a unique Bitcoin address when they created an account on the site.

To make market active, 'Welcome To Video' incentivized users into uploading video material, by giving them reward points. Users were also able to earn points by inviting new members. Those who wanted to subscribe to the website could do so by paying around $300 (0.03BTC) a year.

This would allow those users to download the explicit videos, or buy all-you-can watch "VIP" accounts.

After the site was taken down, it was revealed that the site had one million Bitcoin addresses, meaning that it had at least one million users.

Take down notice for Welcome to Video website
The notice on the 'Welcome to Video' website following its closure. (Credit: U.S. Department of Justice)

'Welcome To Video' was operated by Jong Woo Son, a South Korean citizen.

The site's operation was fist uncovered by UK's National Crime Agency as part of their investigation into Matthew Falder, one of Britain’s worst sex offenders who serves 25 years in prison. The investigation landed the authorities on the 'Welcome To Video' website, operated by Son.

The authorities managed to hunt Son by de-anonymizing Tor browsing data, and by tracking down Bitcoin payments to the dark web website by following the flow of the funds on the blockchain network, using a method called 'dusting'.

The investigation that started in August 2017, found that the virtual currency accounts identified were allegedly used by 24 individuals in five countries to fund 'Welcome To Video' and promote the exploitation of children.

Realizing this, the prosecutors seek to seize the Bitcoins held in those accounts.

According to U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu:

"Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims. We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve."
U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu
U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and other law enforcement officials announced the closure of 'Welcome to Video'. (Credit: GETTY IMAGES)

Son who was 23 years old when arrested, was accused of running the world’s “largest child sexual exploitation market,” which reportedly processed 7,300 Bitcoin transactions worth over $730,000.

He was arrested on March 5, 2018, when the U.S. authorities seized the server he had used to operate the site. He serves an 18-month jail sentence in his native South Korea following his conviction on child exploitation charges and money laundering.

He was also indicted on federal charges in Washington.

Following the operation and take down of the website, besides Son as the site operator, authorities have also arrested and charged an additional 337 site users in the U.S., the UK, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, and Australia.

In the process, officials have rescued at least 23 underage victims in the U.S., UK and Spain who were being actively abused by users of the site, the department said.

Officials from the U.S., UK and South Korea described the network as one of the largest child pornography operations they had encountered to date.

Attorney Jessie K. Liu continued by saying:

"A message to the pedophiles of the world: You may try to hide behind technology, but we will find you, and we will arrest you. Today the children of the world are safer."