A Leslie County man was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for moderating “a highly sophisticated global enterprise dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
David Lynn Browning, 47, of Wooton, was sentenced in North Carolina to 240 months in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. He was arrested July 29, 2015, and he pleaded guilty Dec. 18, 2015.
Browning moderated a members-only website on Tor, a free and public piece of software and network that enables anonymous communication online. Because Tor uses “a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection” to the internet, it is difficult for authorities to identify a person’s location, according to the network. This has made Tor popular with journalists and non-governmental organizations. Tor also has been used by thousands of criminals to sell drugs or, like Browning, distribute child pornography.
The Tor site Browning moderated had 150,000 members and “tens of thousands of postings relating to sexual abuse of children as young as infants and toddlers,” according to the Justice Department.
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“According to admissions, Browning was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the website, including managing membership, developing and enforcing strict rules, and deleting website content that did not depict or discuss child pornography. Browning also admitted to spending hundreds of hours logged in to the website, authoring more than 1,000 postings and designing the website logo,” according to the Justice Department. “In addition, Browning admitted that website members employed advanced technological means in order to undermine law enforcement’s attempts to identify them, including the use of a hidden service on the Tor anonymity network and elaborate file encryption.”
As part of the investigation of Browning and the Tor site, 51 allegedabusers have been prosecuted and 55 American children who were subjected to sexual abuse have been identified or rescued.
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso