6th August 2013
A web hosting company which is alleged to provide a service for many people distributing and promoting child abuse material, has gone offline.
The man thought to be behind Freedom Hosting, Irishman Eric Eoin Marques, has been arrested and has been refused bail by the High Court in Dublin. Marques is wanted by US authorities in connection with the material, and an extradition request is being considered. He will appear in court again on Thursday this week. If sent back to the US, he could face 30 years imprisonment.
Freedom hosted sites on Tor (The Onion Router), a network of 'deep servers' designed to keep internet activity anonymous. It can be used to browse the web anonymously by routing traffic through many separate encrypted layers to hide the type of data identifiers that law enforcement agencies use to track down criminals. The network has been associated with illicit activity such as distributing child abuse images and advertising and selling drugs … but also has many legitimate purposes – including use by journalists and whistleblowers to communicate with each other.
In a statement, Tor confirmed that a large number of hidden service addresses had unexpectedly gone offline. The statement also made it clear that there is no connection between Tor and the illicit hosting business: The persons who run Freedom Hosting are in no way affiliated or connected to the Tor Project Inc, the organisation co-ordinating the development of the Tor software and research. "Anyone can run hidden services, and many do. Organisations run hidden services to protect dissidents, activists, and protect the anonymity of users trying to find help for suicide prevention, domestic violence, and abuse recovery.