The AFP has proactively identified and blocked 10 child abuse websites hosted on domains associated with the Cocos Keeling Islands that were responsible for the distribution of almost one million child abuse images and videos.
Since access to the sites was disrupted on 10 October 2023, AFP investigators have recorded tens of thousands of attempted visits from around the world.
The IP addresses and identities of those who visited these sites from another country will be referred to the relevant law enforcement agency in that country to identify offenders and support criminal investigations.
Access to the sites was blocked as a result of an investigation which was launched in 2022, when the AFP was alerted by the Shire of Cocos Keeling Islands to multiple websites containing child abuse material associated with the Australian territory. The websites’ URLs ended with ‘.cc’, which is the top-level domain (TLD) for the Cocos Keeling Islands.
The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), an international not-for-profit agency combatting child abuse, has flagged the Cocos Keeling Islands TLD as one of the top 10 TLDs worldwide associated with the distribution of child abuse material.
Officers from the AFP-led Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre (JPC3), and Cocos Keeling Islands, along with the Shire of Cocos Keeling Islands, the office of the eSafety Commissioner, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts and the top level domain administrator worked together to remove access to the sites identified as mostly hosting child abuse material.
Visitors to these sites will now see a ‘takedown notice’ issued by the AFP and cannot access previously-hosted child exploitation material.
An investigation is ongoing to identify the administrators, contributors and users of the websites involved.
AFP acting Commander Cybercrime Tim Stainton said viewing or sharing child abuse material was not a victimless crime.
“These videos and images show real children being exploited, physically harmed and traumatised for the perverse gratification of offenders. Each time these files are shared it perpetuates the harm caused to these children,” a/Commander Stainton said.
“Australian domain names should not, and will not, be a safe haven for this kind of horrible content.
“The AFP will use every tool in its arsenal, from website takedowns to seizing servers and arresting those who provide, access or distribute the material, to help keep children safe.
“We will be working to identify the people responsible for creating these sites as well as those who accessed them.”
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said child sexual exploitation material can be found in all corners of the internet and Australians should report it to eSafety if they ever see it.
“With our partners in law enforcement, we continue to chip away at one of the most distressing and abhorrent violations of human rights: the sexual abuse of children,” eSafety Commissioner Inman Grant said.
“This challenge is of epic, global proportions, and I urge all Australians to help eradicate this content by reporting it to eSafety.gov.au. You can report anonymously and should only report the URL, rather than store or screenshot the illegal content.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire President Aindil Minkom said this was a great outcome for the Shire and the .cc TLD.
“The result of many months’ collaboration and working with the AFP and other agencies has proven to be a huge success and we thank all those involved,” Mr Minkom said.
The AFP-led JPC3 brings together the powers, experience, investigative and intelligence capabilities of all Australian policing jurisdictions and key international law enforcement and industry partners.
It identifies organised cybercriminals targeting Australia, disrupts their criminal activities and prevents further harm and financial loss to the Australian community.
To report online child sexual abuse, including child sexual abuse material, please contact the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation using the Report Abuse button.
If you or someone you know is impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation, support services are available at www.accce.gov.au/support.