We found 95.000 downloaders of child abuse pictures worldwide

Over the last ten months, VG has mapped downloaders of abuse material. This resulted in a world map, that shows where 95.000 downloaders of abuse images are located.

Thanks to an extensive data material VG knows of nearly 95.000 people worldwide who download photos and films showing child abuse. Most of them have probably paid to gain access to the material.

Click here to see the interactive world map.

Today VG presents the first part in a series of articles on people who download child abuse images. The Norwegian newspaper possesses information about 36 million downloads from all over the world. For ten months VG has mapped and identified Norwegians who have downloaded abuse material.

Read the first part of VGs story here (in Norwegian)

95.000 child abuse downloaders worldwide

VG has detailed information on a large number of Norwegians who, according to our data, have spent time, money and resources on increasing the demand for child abuse images.

We have, however, information on far, far more downloaders from all over the world.

In total 430.177 files showing sexual abuse of children have been downloaded to 94.989 IP addresses the world over.

VGs crew have revealed nearly 95.000 downloaders of child abuse material online. Here they are with Bjørn-Erik Ludvigsen and Emil Kofoed at the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos). Photo: Therese Alice Sanne, VG

For every download, we have indications of the user name and email address of the downloader, in addition to information on the file and the IP address it was downloaded to.

Even if an IP address is not the same as a person, there is reason to assume that VG has information on close to 95.000 people from all over the world, who spend time, money and resources on downloading child abuse images.

The information is gathered from activities logged from a small number of file-sharing services which are preferred by people who share this kind of material.

Child abuse networks

Einar Otto Stangvik, computer analyst in VG, believes that the map may indicate the location of several paedophile networks.

– The reason why one specific file-sharing service is used in one specific country may be that paedophiles and downloaders in this country discuss and recommend this service when they want to share abuse material. We have seen in several hidden forums that they recommend certain file-sharing services, and this discussion may happen not just on the Internet. One can therefore look at this world map as a representation of several geographic networks of downloaders and paedophiles, says Stangvik.

– Another, more practical explanation may be that these countries simply have the best Internet connections, Stangvik continues.

Einar Otto Stangvik, computer analyst in VG. Photo: Jan Petter Lynau, VG

Stangvik is the one who has uncovered the material. His analyses of the logs have revealed information on where abuse material is downloaded.

He says that there may well be more people than those VG now know of, who have downloaded abuse material.

– These 95.000 IP addresses have downloaded the same files as the Norwegian downloaders seem to have done. It is not impossible that there is more abuse material in the data logs than what we have found so far, Stangvik says.

Majority of industrialized countries

The majority of the downloaders are in the large industrialized countries: Germany has the most downloaders in VG’s data material with 18,107 downloading IP addresses.

Then follow the USA and Russia, with 13.630 and 11.118 IP addresses respectively. The next countries on the list are Great Britain (3743 IP addresses), France (3393) and Japan (3336).

VG has identified 78 Norwegians who seem to have downloaded abuse material.

They are of all ages. The youngest downloader VG has identified is still in highschool. The oldest is well over sixty.

They have all kinds of jobs. Some have top positions in the health services, others are unemployed and disabled. Some have done Christian work, others have held central positions in the armed forces. Some are manual workers; others are artists, musicians or photographers. Some work in IT.

All the downloaders are men. That is one of the few common denominators.

– Thought it would be attractive

The only ones who have been able to validate VG’s material, are the downloaders themselves. We have therefore contacted and confronted ten of the men. Seven of them admit that our information corresponds to what they have actually done.

– How on earth have you found out all this about me, is the reaction of the first person to be confronted by VG. He runs his own company.

– I don’t think I am doing something wrong. We all have different preferences. But if the police get hold of this, I go to jail, lose my house and my job. That would be the end of it.

Several of the men VG confronts react by deleting all they have on their computer. One of the downloaders smashed his computer before he threw it in the ocean.

– I didn’t know whether to puke or shit myself. I was completely beside myself. But if you are looking for that kind of person, you have come to the wrong place. Sometimes, of course, you start to download something, and you don’t always realize what is being downloaded, is his explanation to VG why we have found information about him in the data material.

Another insists that he has only downloaded out of curiosity.

– I thought it would be attractive. But every time I opened one of the films I had downloaded I only saw brutal abuse.

All kinds of people

Most of the men have been downloading for a long time, unbothered by the police. That corresponds to the image the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos) have of the downloaders.

– Many of the people we catch in these cases are people who are completely unknown to the police. They are ordinary people from all professions, all social classes, all income groups, all ethnicities, all religions, says police Superintendent Bjørn-Erik Ludvigsen at Kripos to VG.

He has worked as investigator at the Section for Sexual Crime and is among those with the most knowledge of who the downloaders are.

– There is no offender profile that fits those who have a sexual preference for children and crimes against children. They are all kinds of people. They are policemen, journalists, unemployed and everything else, he says.

The investigator thinks that people who download child abuse material are also responsible for the crime against the children.

– Every instance of sharing or downloading abuse material contributes to maintaining the market for new instances of abuse against children. Without the downloaders there had not been as much child abuse. Furthermore, the images constitute a continuous violation of the children as long as the material stays on the Internet and is spread across the globe. They have to live with it for the rest of their lives, he says.

Originally published on VG on March 10, 2015.

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