In October, the search giant Yahoo spotted unusual activity originating from an I.P. address in France. They immediately notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation—the suspect purchased feeds that featured the live abuse of children in the Philippines. The FBI reached out to the Central Office for the Prevention (translated Repression) of Violence to People (OCRVP) in Nanterre, France. Authorities indicted the 71-year-old for possession of child pornography images and subsequently placed him in custody.
According to one of the initial reports, the indictment added “involvement in the rape of minors with acts of torture and barbarity, conspiracy, and possession of child abuse images.” The so-called septuagenarian—officials have yet released the suspect’s name—denied any charges placed against him. The transfers consisted of 10-20 euros per instance, via a “network to buy, via platforms ‘live stream’ sexual services.” At the recent hearing, the court heard the accused tell authorities that the transfers were purely for humanitarian purposes ” to help the troubled country.”
The transfers, during the beginning, were for “a few euros.” Investigators then mentioned the discovery of larger transactions; sources described the 10-20 euro transactions to someone in the Philippines. He began by paying the lower fees to watch the live streams. That, then, segued into the activities listed in the Grenoble Administrative Court’s indictment. The indictment translated charged the 71-year-old Frenchman for rapes on minors’ complicity with torture and barbarism, conspiracy and possession of child abuse images. Investigators, though, discovered the suspect scripted many of the live streams. The scripted feeds cost 20-euros whereas the streams where the defendant played no role in the abuse cost less.
His computer contained the evidence needed to elicit a conviction, despite the noted lack of downloaded material. The FBI, OCRVP, and Yahoo located numerous connections to live streams from the Philippines. A source reported that the Frenchman made transactions over the darknet. The actual streams, per currently-released information, occurred on a generic network, i.e., the clearnet or the deepweb.
“We are dealing with, through international cooperation, several cases of ‘live streaming’ of rape or sexual assault. Being complicit in the activities via stream is just as abominable as rape itself,” said OCRVP’s Philippe Guichard. Le Parisien quoted Guichard saying the above after the hearing on December 6.
The case prosecutor in Grenoble said an investigation is underway; the lack of downloaded evidence made the case, to a degree, unique. Despite lacking an element critical to standard cases of child pornography, the FBI and OCRVP made several headways. Not only did the agencies identify several viewers worldwide, but they also deanonymized the owner(s) of the live stream.
The FBI and the OCRVP will continue to investigate the case. With the proprietor and viewers identified, they may be waiting on the corresponding law enforcement agencies. Yahoo, too, may continue to play a role in the investigation. The company granted a significant level of access to US law enforcement. “Yahoo built a software in 2015 that let them screen their users’ emails for the US government,” Benjamin Vitáris wrote, adding “The tech firm did the scanning without the knowledge of the company’s CSO (Chief Security Officer), two former employees told Reuters anonymously.”
Yahoo controversially used “deleted” emails as evidence in a recent case against Russell Knaggs. A judge ordered the company to reveal the mechanisms they utilized in providing law enforcement with suspected the cocaine distributor’s emails.