Cyber Crime

Owner of dark web Freedom hosting pleads guilty to host child abuse content

The hosting service contained well over 8.5 million child abuse images.

Back in 2013, reported about the shutting down of a well-known dark web hosting services provider called Freedom for offering child abuse content via Tor’s encrypted network.

The owner of Freedom Web Hosting, Eric Eoin Marques was arrested for his involvement in facilitating child pornography. The site users also complained that the Tor browser copy hosted by Freedom Web Hosting was infected with malicious JavaScript that de-anonymized them. has been following this case since 2013. Marques was arrested by the FBI and extradited to the USA on 23 March 2019. As per the latest development, the 33-year old accused has pleaded guilty in a Maryland court before a US District Judge Theodore D. Chuang. 

Marques, a dual national of the US and Ireland, has admitted conspiring to advertise child porn between July 24, 2008, and July 29, 2008, through an anonymous web hosting service (AHS), which he operated on the Dark Web. The AHS was a free web hosting service that allowed users to access, view, and share objectionable child sexual abuse content/images involving prepubescent minors.

Eric Eoin Marques appearing in court in the US.

In a press release from the US Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur of the District of Maryland said that,

“Child pornography is created by documenting the sexual abuse of children. This is an egregious case where one individual facilitated the abuse of more than a million new child victims and attempted to keep the abuse hidden on the dark web. We must do everything we can to bring individuals like Marques to justice in order to keep our children safe.”

The content hosted by AHS was quite disturbing as the images depicted the violent and brutal sexual abuse of minors. The web hosting service contained well over 8.5 million child abuse images while the law enforcement had no information about 1.97 million of the victims. 

Home page of Freedom hosting

The FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division’s Assistant Director, Calvin Shivers, stated that Marques’ plea authenticates the bureau’s “unwavering commitment to stop those who sexually exploit innocent children. The FBI and its international law enforcement partners will remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice for the world’s most vulnerable victims harmed at the ruthless hands of others.”

Marques is due to be sentenced on May 11.

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