Towards the end of 2016, Norwegian officials announced the completion of an international darknet child pornography investigation. Police identified 51 suspects, and many were law enforcement officers, politicians, or other well-known individuals. The investigators seized 150 terabytes of child porn under the now defunct “Operation Darkroom.”
Mainstream media picked up on the article and published stories about the arrests but the news, now, has changed. Various news outlets and Twitter users noticed the websites started to remove the articles. The question is simple: why? Thankfully, for some, the articles are easily located.
Hilde Reikrås, head of the taskforce and spokesperson at the press release, announced that two men were prominent public figures in Norway. Two were politicians—one in office and the other a former politician. A locally-famous lawyer and schoolteacher made the police’s list too. Reikrås refused to release names to the public, at the time of the announcement. However, since then, the press managed to identify many of the suspects. NRK, a local TV and radio broadcasting company, spoke to one of the politician’s lawyers. The attorney told NRK that his client, the politician, knew that he committed a crime. He, the politician, claimed to be a drug addict. He was not aware of the child pornography, according to NRK. One of the politicians has been cooperating with police, Reikrås said.
The Norwegian men, or many of them, were placed in custody the morning of the press release. But police announced that international suspects were still at large. The relevant law enforcement agency received information on the remote suspects. One, for instance, disappeared in Sweden. Swedish police hunted him down during Operation Darkroom but failed to locate him.
According to Sputnik, ABC, the New York Times, and Washington Post published pieces on the pedophile ring. Those articles vanished, and a small circle of internet users began questioning the reasoning. Janne Ringset Heltne, the lead prosecutor Operation Dark Room, confirmed the investigations were real and ongoing. “This investigation is still in progress and will be for a long time, as the networks include many people. At this point, 51 men stand accused, and they will be prosecuted individually.”
Sputnik, DeepDotWeb, and several similar sites contacted ABC, the New York Times, and Washington Post for comment. As of this article, only Sputnik received a response. A spokesperson from the New York Times said that ‘the title published’ several hundred” wire stories daily online, and these stories are removed as a matter of course after a few weeks.”
Operation Darkroom played out in a similar fashion to Taskforce Argos’s takedown of The Love Zone, another child pornograohy website on the darknet. High-priority suspects were arrested silently so as to keep the investigation under wraps.