China was once a stronghold of bitcoin but the sector was unregulated and transactions were under the radar of the authorities China was once a stronghold of bitcoin but the sector was unregulated and transactions were under the radar of the authorities Photo: AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE In perhaps one of the most vile and illicit uses of bitcoin, the largest child porn site in the world has been rightly put to an end by the U.S. law enforcement.

The darknet site called "Welcome To Video" broadcasts images and videos of at least 23 minor victims from the U.S., the U.K., and Spain in exchange for bitcoin -- the first of its kind to monetize child exploitation using the cryptocurrency. The site was operated by Jong Woo Son, a 23-year-old South Korean citizen.  

Son was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury and is also charged and convicted in South Korea, where he is currently serving his sentence.

Users of the site received access to a unique bitcoin address after creating an account, and those accounts are used for paying and downloading the videos. An analysis of the server reported that the site could accommodate more users since it contains over one million bitcoin addresses.

Apart from the bitcoin addresses that were collected from the site's server, law enforcement was also able to get leads to arrest and charge 337 other site users from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Washington, D.C. as well as the United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia. Two users committed suicide after the search warrants were issued.

There was also a forfeiture complaint that declared law enforcement was able to track bitcoin payments to the site by tracing the flow of funds on the blockchain. That complaint also seeks to recover the funds and return it to the rescued victims.

"Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims," said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. 

"We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the Darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve."

Cases like this further tarnish the already moot reputation of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and it is the same reason why regulators of Facebook's Libra project are cautious in giving the social media giant the go signal to pursue their crypto aspirations.