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Task Force Argos Operated a Darknet Child Abuse Forum for 11 Months

With striking similarity to the US FBI’s takeover of the darknet child abuse forum PlayPen, Australian police triggered arrests across the globe after spending nearly a year secretly running the forum. Investigative journalists with VG, a Norwegian newspaper, unintentionally stumbled upon the secret operation while investigating the massive child exploitation forum known as Childs Play.Screenshot from 2017-10-08 07-05-29.png

While investigating the site, one of the newspaper’s computer experts found the hidden service’s IP address. It was hosted on a server owned by Digital Pacific. The IP address, according to VG’s explanation, was found via a simple leak that occurred when uploading a profile picture (or picture elsewhere). VG travelled to Sydney, Australia, and visited the offices of the web host. They spoke with the founder who wanted to help them find the owners of Childs Play. Andrew Koloadin, the founder of Digital Pacific allegedly agreed not to shut down the server in order to preserve VG’s work. He additionally agreed to lookup the owner’s registration information.

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“A few keystrokes later, we have an answer: the server is leased by Task Force Argos in Brisbane,” VG explained. Koloadin was taken back by this. He wished the Task Force Argos—the internationally known branch of Australian law enforcement that took down The Love Zone—had notified him of the operation. VG then reached out to Task Force Argos and arranged a conversation. The investigators eventually worked with VG in answering questions about the investigation.

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When VG uncovered Childs Play, Task Force Argos had taken the forum over only three months prior after the arrest of the site’s owner in the United States. Like with The Love Zone, Argos investigators quickly studied the owner’s writing style, typos, and punctuation. They slid into the admin’s position almost seamlessly, posting as the owner known as WarHead and using WarHead’s writing style. With full control of the server, Argos saw that some members knew that law enforcement had taken the site over. Nobody, though, revealed that information to the “public” forum.

Argos, after assuming the identity of the Canadian owner, Benjamin Faulkner aka WarHead, maintained the forum for nearly a year. Part of this task included posting monthly status updates (warrant canaries) that included pictures of children being abused. This was a conflict for the investigators, but a necessary evil, they explained to VG.

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Operation Artemis, the name Argos gave to the undercover part of the operation, remained open as investigators around the globe gathered information on suspects. Australian law enforcement agencies have more leeway in these cases than law enforcement in many countries combined, so Australia taking the lead was a welcomed move. On September 13, 11 months after sliding into the operator’s seat, Argos shut the site down. One Argos investigator told VG that he had a loss of “60-90” people worldwide. Canadian police claimed to have saved a dozen children. One unidentified country’s police reported they had a list of 900 suspects.

Homeland Security Investigations reported an open investigation connected to Childs Play. And Faulkner’s case is still sealed—for the most part. As arrests begin to line up, the controversies surrounding Operation Artemis are sure to surface. People objected to the FBI running PlayPen for less than two weeks. At 11 months, the Artemis is (that we know of as) an operation of an unparalleled scale. How far can law enforcement push an investigation? At what point does keeping a forum open cause more damage than shutting it down? Will law enforcement open their own drug markets or child abuse forums?


  1. Stupid question time:

    Why redact the handles but not the real names of the defendants?

    • Matt

      Personally I don’t care why their usernames were redacted, I much prefer their REAL, FULL NAME to be wide out in the open, as it should be.

  2. Personally I don’t care that their usernames are redacted, I’m much happier to see their REAL, FULL NAME on this article, as it should be. Certain people need to know these things for when these cucks end up in prison.

  3. I’m glad these pieces of human scum were caught. I cant quite put my anger toward people who hurt children into words. But at the same time, to consider the number of children who were abused under the FBI’s watch is just heartbreaking. Necessary evil, I suppose? I dont know. At what point do we expect LE to draw a line.

    Would we accept the FBI allowing a dirty bomb to explode in a smaller city, say, Denver, to build a case against a terrorist group?

    11 months, folks. they didnt keep the forum open for a few weeks. they left it open for 11 months. i can imagine it was a painstaking decision, and the agents working the case may never sleep again. but is this really ok? I’m afraid I dont have a definitive answer.

    • Lorgey

      they ran the site for so long and watched so many children get abused so they could watch more cp

    • RIPChildsPlay

      You stupid fucking idiots!The children were not ABUSED. They werent being HURT. They ENJOYED doinf this because these people taught them to do these things and they LIKED it. These children were not SAVED, they were taken from doing what they love! They did nothing wrong as the children were not harmed, they were taken care of. I think its bullshit they think they rescued these children, in reality the kids are crying for their parents. I have seen some of the videos, they actually LIKE it! And if anyone says its abuse, youre wrong… There was no hurtcore or rape. The children did this willingly because they wanted to do it! You people are the sick fucks for thinking they need to die after giving their children a good life with things they actually WANT. The children were NEVER hurt or abused or raped. They were pampered and they liked what they did. Kys everybody, the cops made a mistake… They probably fucked themselves to the videos too, because otherwise they wouldnt have run it or uploaded. Admit it, I have a good point. Think of the childrens needs and wants, they just got something taken away frok them that was part of their life…

  4. Michael Carpenter

    I feel sorry for those guys who have to serve a lifetime in a US prison. Those prisons can be hard.

  5. I think this agency did far exceeded the line between a “necessary law enforcement operation” to a flat out Child Pornography Distributer. They’re are many child pornography distributers that are not actually pedophiles, they do it to make money (which is completely wrong), however they commit the crime. Imagine how many pedophiles out there that this law enforcenent agency contributed to their child porn collection, which they are continuing to pass to thier pedophile friends.

    What this agency did for so long is a serious crime, period.

  6. fucking dirty pedophile LE in Australia ran the site for 11 months because they love watching child porn, not because they want to fight abusers. They uploaded child porn every single month from the Admin account, but only identified 60 suspects worldwide? FUCKING CORRUPT PEDOPHILES THEY ONLY WANTED TO WATCH AS MUCH CP AS THEY POSSIBLY COULD LEGALLY

  7. Its just tobad… I am a suspecy but will never be caught as I am in a safe place. I am a child too! And you thought pedophiles were only old men.

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