The Capital Region including the Twin Counties has turned itself into a leader in the fight against child pornography and child sexual abuse but this evolution has come about through events we can’t bring ourselves to think about.
A Columbia County man is one of several hundreds — yes, hundreds — prosecuted around the world as part of an extensive global FBI investigation into viewing child pornography on the dark web, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Brian Northup, 28, of Hudson, pleaded guilty Wednesday to logging onto the website Playpen, through an anonymous internet network, to view child pornography.
Playpen — the name evokes a sense of dislocation and dread — is the twisted creation of Steven W. Chase, 58, of Naples, Florida. He devised Playpen in August 2014 on the Tor network, an open channel on the internet where users communicate anonymously through “hidden service” websites. Illegal activity is common on these websites, according to the FBI. That is an understatement.
Playpen members uploaded and viewed tens of thousands of posts of young boys and girls, indexed by age, gender and the type of sexual proclivities favored by the web browsers, according to the FBI.
Chase created what the FBI believes is the world’s largest child pornography website, counting more than 150,000 users around the world. He was sentenced May 5, 2017, to 30 years in prison, the FBI said.
This foul and far-reaching case was unprecedented in scope and breadth. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the case “opened new avenues for international cooperation in efforts to prosecute child abusers around the world,” the FBI said.
The investigation into Playpen took down 25 producers of child pornography in the United States and led to prosecution of 51 child sex abusers. Hundreds more were subjected to domestic or international arrest, the FBI said.
Directly or indirectly, it’s right for the Twin Counties to take part in these worldwide investigations. After all, a Hudson man was swept up by the authorities in a vast net of international police cooperation. Child pornography and child sexual abuse don’t happen in one place. It’s a matter of global justice and public safety.