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Child abuse on the Darknet: Freedom Hosting operator for 27 years in prison

The former operator of the darknet provider Freedom Hosting has been sentenced to 27 years in prison in the USA as one of the “world’s largest distributors of child pornography”. This was announced by the US Department of Justice and also summarizes the allegations against the now 36-year-old man with US and Irish citizenship. It is a monstrous case in which an individual spread horrific pictures and videos of child abuse himself or helped others spread them. Almost two million of the discovered contents were not known to law enforcement officers in advance.

The then 28-year-old Eric Eoin Marques was arrested in Ireland in 2013, before that he had operated a “free and anonymous hosting service on the darknet” for five years. Websites were hosted that made it possible to view or distribute depictions of child sexual abuse. In total, Freedom Hosting hosted more than 200 such websites with millions of such content. Many of these pictures also show sadistic abuse of infants and young children, explain the US law enforcement agencies. The pages have been taken offline and dozens of people responsible for the content around the world have been identified and charged. The service was also hijacked by the FBI and used to distribute malicious code.

The more than eight years that the now convicted person has already spent in prison will be deducted from the sentence, reports ArsTechnica. The man was extradited to the United States in 2019 and pleaded guilty in early 2020. When he has served his sentence, he can therefore return to Ireland. For the rest of his life, however, he is only allowed to use the Internet for reasons approved by the probation service. All computers that he then wants to use must therefore be equipped with monitoring software so that violations are noticed. In addition, the convict must go to therapy as a sex offender, among other things.


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