back to article Playpen child sex abuse archive admin gets 20 years in the Big House

An administrator of Playpen – the notorious dark-web trading post of child sex abuse material – has been jailed for 20 years and faces a lifetime of parole. Michael Fluckiger, 46, of Portland, Indiana, was arrested on March 4, 2015 and pled guilty to helping run the Playpen website, which was taken over by the FBI and used to …

  1. oldtaku Silver badge

    The new face of crime

    Picture of a doughy, balding, greasy white IT type dude would work better here (he looks it), though 20 years in can really change you - if he lives that long.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punishment fits the crime?

    A child abuser has been sentenced to jail - where, if he's a bottom, he will probably enjoy himself. If he's not, he'll learn to enjoy it. This seems somewhat counterproductive but, for the life of me, I can't figure out what else to do.

    1. a_yank_lurker

      Re: Punishment fits the crime?

      There is a very definite prison hierarchy and child molesters/murders are at very the bottom. Apparently felons despise those who preyed on the smallest and weakest members of society. He will be brutalized and despised for 20 years for his actions. Adding to his problems is the fact he probably was not around your typical criminal and knows nothing about them.

    2. Shades

      Re: Punishment fits the crime?

      "A child abuser has been sentenced to jail - where, if he's a bottom,"

      Hold your horses there buddy. You seem to be insinuating that all paedophiles are gay, ergo only gays are potential paedophiles. With all due respect, which in this case is absolutely none, please take your outdated views and fuck off!

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Punishment fits the crime?

        "You seem to be insinuating"

        hold your horses, there, snowflake, can't you see it was a joke?

        [_I_ thought it was UPROARIOUSLY funny!]

        political correctness *SUCKS*, every time it's tried. And so will *THAT* guy (aka 'the perp'), for 20 years in prison, whether he enjoys it or not...

        /me goes off and plays that 'Bob and Tom' song, 'Prison Bitch' in his honor

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Punishment fits the crime?

          Rape. It's hilarious.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades

        Offended on the part of others, much!? Then I suggest it's you that should fuck right off!

        Personally I read "bottom" in the BDSM sense, as in submissive. Then the sentence actually makes fucking sense, rather than reading some "insinuation" in to it. If you actually knew anything about those you chose to be offended for, you'd know as a rule homosexual men far prefer fellatio*, only children think they're obsessed with bottoms. So, FWIW, I suggest you take your outdated views and fuck off.

        * if you want the actual percentages.

        1. Shades

          Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades

          What a load of absolute fucking shit. Between the back tracking, bullshit claims of "percentages", use of snowflake, and whines of political correctness no doubt you pair are backward fuckwit Trump (and/or Fuhrage) supporters.

          Anyone, without the tendency to be a lying cunt, knows full well you weren't referring to BDSM bottoms; Besides the fact there are many facets to BDSM - only some of which involve pain - if, on the off-chance a paedophile was also into BDSM, I don't think getting the absolute living shit stomped out of you is something even the most hardened BDSM bottom would find pleasurable. Doubly so for a BDSM top - "if he's not, he'll learn to enjoy it" - why the fuck would a BDSM top "learn to enjoy" having the living shit stomped out of him? Get the fuck out of here with your pathetic "I mean't BDSM" backtracking bullshit!

          So, what other section of society uses the terms Bottom and Top? What other section of society has, for many, many years also suffered the unfounded stereotype and stigma of being associated with paedophilia? Go on, take one fucking guess...

          And on behalf of others? For all you know I could be extravagantly fabulous myself, have close friends who are also fabulous, so too a couple of cousins and have worked within the gay night-life industry. You don't know me, so who the fuck are you to suggest I'm being offended on behalf of others? However, you do realise that you don't have to be the "subject" (for want of a better word) that is being offensively commented upon to be offended right? I don't have to be gay to be offended by a casual connection between homosexuality and paedophilia, similarly I don't have to, as a kid, have been fucked by an adult to find a "joke" about paedophilia offensive. To believe otherwise is treading dangerously down the path of being a typical piece of shit Drumpf/Fuhrage supporting wanker.

          BTW, you are dead wrong about gay men "far" preferring fellatio... maybe you're projecting your time in the school showers?

          TL;DR Go fuck yourselves, you pair of utter scumbags.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades

            > no doubt you pair are backward fuckwit Trump (and/or Fuhrage) supporters.

            Oh my, the now silghtly used "deplorables" brush. Please no.

          2. dan1980

            Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades


            "Anyone, without the tendency to be a lying c**t, knows full well you weren't referring to BDSM bottoms . . ."

            Actually, that's how I took it. Well, to be honest, at first my mind conjured images of comedic movies where the protagonist is in prison and his roommate is a heavy-set fellow who insists on the top bunk, squashing the hapless inmate relegated to the bottom bunk. But yeah, that image pushed aside as unlikely, BDSM is where my mind went next.

            Which is not to say that I defend the comment because I think this is all a diversion and, on your challenge: "what other section of society uses the terms Bottom and Top?", I can see that that's a valid assumption of what might have been meant. However, just for some balance, I certainly took it as a reference to BDSM, though I didn't think it through - that was just my first (well, second) reaction.

            Regardless of whether these people will be beaten or raped or otherwise abused in prison, the likely truth is that they will very quickly feel very helpless, which provides a not entirely displeasing symmetry, though I hasten to add (not even breaking for a new sentence) that 'an-eye-for-an-eye' is not a generally well-supported form of punishment, ethically.

            On the topic of preferences, while I cannot speak for all the homosexual men out there, I do recall watching a documentary presented by Stephen Fry* where he explored attitudes to homosexuality around the world and the according lives of homosexuals affected by them.

            I believe it was in Uganda - to where the US exported fundamentalist Christian ministry - that Fry was talking/debating with a pastor who was spouting this vehement anti-gay message. When they got down to the tacks, the pastor's core issue, or so I recall, was sodomy. To which Fry explained that sodomy is not that prevalent in the gay community and other forms of sexual activity, such as (in his words) 'fellatio' and 'mutual masturbation', were popular.

            Stephen Fry obviously doesn't speak for the entire gay community and my recollection of his exact words may be less than perfect but I present them here, for whatever it is worth. Which is likely not much.

            To the story itself, while I am not one to be blinded to the means when faced with the outcomes, for a moment or two we can be thankful that 49 children have been helped and again, for a moment or two, we can agree that a not-insignificant good has been done.

            It's an interesting time to reflect on the balance between liberty and safety because child abuse is not the same as terrorism - that other blank cheque writer. When it comes to terrorism, we really shouldn't let fear of that dominate and cause us to throw our liberties away - even small liberties that some might think unimportant.

            Child abuse is a different beast, however, because we, as adults, really do need to 'think of the children'. Not as an emotional 'it could be my child' knee-jerk but instead with the mind that we have a responsibility to protect children and child abuse is something that, obviously, is not perpetrated against the adults making the decisions.

            I can say that I preference liberty over safety when it comes to terrorist attacks because I am just as likely as anyone else around me (i.e. in my city) to be the victim of such an attack. I can say that I would rather a slightly higher risk of potentially being killed in such an attack than be subjected to definitely, always-on surveillance every time I step outside or use my train card or browse to an Internet site.

            When the risk is being born, however, by someone else, it's a less clear issue - at least for me. I am not a potential victim of child abuse so if I say that surveillance of me and a weakening of my protections is not acceptable to reduce the risk to someone else, that;s more difficult. Doubly so if the risk is to someone who I - as an adult - am supposed to be looking out for and protecting.

            So, for the moment, I going back to being happy that 49 children have been helped.

            * - Sometimes maligned on this site for wrong-headed explanations of technical issues he is not qualified to speak about, but certainly gay and therefore possessed of at least some familiarity with that subject.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades

            My, my Shades, you are a hate filed little bunny aren't you.

            Once again you jump to some massive assumptions [see what I did there?]

            1. that the two AC posts were from the same person

            2. that either of the two ACs [clue, you hysterical fool] is not homosexual or has an interest in BDSM [wrong]

            3. neither has homosexual friends [wrong]

            Announcing "I'm offended" is basically telling the world that you can't control your emotions, which is pretty obvious from you little outburst

          4. Bernard M. Orwell

            Re: Punishment fits the crime? @Shades

            "TL;DR Go fuck yourselves, you pair of utter scumbags."

            Seconded. It's low grade intellect like these two that give us trump, farage, brexit and the daily heil.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The internet where men are men, women are men and children are the FBI. Good thing in this case.

  5. Milton

    Degrees of filth

    For those of us worrying overmuch about what El Reg is pleased to call "ransomware scum" (and they're right), this story is a reminder that there are even worse human filth out there.

    Pity the Feds remain so abjectly clueless about this stuff. If they knew what they were doing they could conceivably have hoovered up and prosecuted thousands of these vermin.

    I actually wonder sometimes these days whether I will live to see any non-military*¹ /-intelligence government agency demonstrate the remotest competence with technology?

    *¹ Yeah, I know the military are fairly incompetent (look at the F-35 fiasco) but even they don't have a boss whose actual job, it appears, is to advertise how stupid he and his agency are. (Either that or James Comey is an accidental embarrassment?)

    1. 's water music

      Re: Degrees of filth

      Yeah, I know the military are fairly incompetent (look at the F-35 fiasco) but even they don't have a boss whose actual job, it appears, is to advertise how stupid he and his agency are. (Either that or James Comey is an accidental embarrassment?)

      How about after Friday?

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. DrXym

    I hope he enjoys his time

    He'll probably have to be secluded due to the high risk of being assaulted the second any other prisoner finds out what he's in for. Time will pass very slowly indeed.

    1. Goopy

      Re: I hope he enjoys his time

      Jsecluded? Nope, gen pop.

  8. Pen-y-gors

    So, just to get this right...

    For two weeks the FBI was running a kiddie-porn distribution network? In what alternative universe is that acceptable (or legal)?

    What's next? The FBI carry out assasinations so they can catch the people paying for them? They start selling coke on street corners so they can catch the people the buyers give it to? Bug business offices so they can get information that they sell to stock traders so they can get them for insider trading?

    The job of the FBI is to uphold and enforce the law, not to break it. Time to lock up some senior FBI people for a very long time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, just to get this right...

      Long history of running stings and honeytraps where ends justify means, without knowing the details I would hazard a guess the few they caught either failed at using tor or added content, which the feds didn't publish but maintained the archive to snare more bottom feeders.

      The real issue the feds face is not detailing the tracking method, as I (speculating) imagine it was some form of 0day click jacking attack against the (deserved) marks. If that's what they did then they are in shit as, as far as i know the law doesn't permit warrentless hacks and exploits even if the good guys are the ones doing it. It's also probably why the number of people fingerred so far is low as no other agency or judiciary would touch the "evidence" with a shitty stick as at best its inadmissible...

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: So, just to get this right...

      I doubt they 'ran' it as in administered it. Left it running would perhaps be more likely. Although if they didn't do administration someone on there may have been spooked. I have no problem with what they did in either case and you seem to be suggesting these FBI guys are somehow into the subject matter when they were trying to remove the freedom of those perpetuating it. Job done, means to an end as the commentard above me said.

    3. Eddy Ito

      Re: So, just to get this right...

      The FBI and their ATF buddies were complicit in allowing drug gangs to buy guns in the US and smuggle them to Mexico. This particular incident should come as no surprise and I'd wager there are likely worse things these agencies have done with their ends justify the means mindset.

    4. dan1980

      Re: So, just to get this right...


      While I understand the meat of your argument - that it is somewhat disturbing what the FBI did - I am not sure that you have thought this through because there are laws that do not apply to law enforcement - at least within the boundaries dictated by their job. (Ideally very narrow boundaries.)

      This is necessary, otherwise a police officer could never arrest anyone as physically restraining someone and bundling them into a car against their will would see the police in jail for assault and kidnapping. They could never pursue a vehicle because they would have their licenses suspended for speeding and, in many countries and some US states, they certainly couldn't walk around with guns or tasers*.

      Those examples might seem facetious but that's the consequence of applying the logic that law enforcement must follow all the laws that civilians have to, which is what you seem to be implying.

      If that's not what you are saying then we can agree that, in the course of discharging their duties, law enforcement officers sometimes need to do things that would see a civilian arrested or at least fined. The question, therefore, is which otherwise-illegal activities should the law enforcement agencies and officers be able to undertake and under what circumstances.

      This is very much a matter of personal opinion and that runs from 'whatever it takes' to 'don't look at me without a warrant' so there are clearly degrees of acceptability.

      Establishing a child pornography/abuse ring would be, I suspect, over the threshold for pretty much everyone. But where does seizing control of one sit? Most people would, I hazard, consider that to be more acceptable but for many - yourself included, obviously - it is still over the threshold and thus unacceptable.

      I'm not sure where that sits for me but I know that if it is acceptable then it's sufficiently close to the line to make me feel quite uneasy about it.

      If the FBI actually ran the site in the same manner that the identified admin did, which is to say they "encourag[ed] users to create more original content", then that is so far beyond the line that it's nearly inconceivable. Instead, I think they controlled the servers and the back-end code of the site but did not run the site as an active admin, curating and soliciting content. And that's a not-insignificant difference.

      Odd as it may sound, I'm actually more worried about the IT and warrant-granting sides because those actions have a far wider potential impact. Infiltrating and seizing a known criminal organisation is something that, by definition, requires there to be a known criminal organisation engaging in, well, criminal activities. And that just doesn't negatively affect the freedom of law-abiding civilians.

      Allowing one-to-many warrants that authorise mass hacking of private PCs is rather something else because the very 'need' that prompts the hacking/malware is that the authorities have not positively identified the people involved. That, for me, is a step to far given the far-reaching consequences.

      * - Of course, there are some who would argue that the police shouldn't engage in high-speed chases and shouldn't be carrying weapons, but that argument has more to do with the effectiveness and potentially dangerous outcomes of those actions, rather than an assertion that the actions are illegal.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Quite amazed they aran it from servers inside the US.

    Or has someone repealed THE PATRIOT Act without my knowledge?

    But the figure I can't get my head around is 150 thousand members?? WTF.

    That's 0.05% of the entire US population.

    That said I hope the FBI learned from earlier large CP website raids and be very careful to verify the real ID of any member IE don't rely on stolen credit card details.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Quite amazed they aran it from servers inside the US.

      There are other countries in the world you know, some of them even have the internet ;)

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The end times are near etc.

    How many rings are there and why are they so successful (apart from being absolutely tools for blackmail from the dark side)?

    Why Did The ‘New York Times’ Delete A Story About Norwegian Pedophile Network?

    (I like the investigation being known as “Dark Room.”, did someone play Life Is Strange?)

  11. Ashley_Pomeroy

    What kind of name is Fluckiger?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Probably of German (or at least that region) origin and then anglicised via Ellis Island.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He broke the golden rule...

    He broke the golden rule... if you plan to do something illegal, don't do it on servers hosted in the USA.

    A/C for obvious reasons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: He broke the golden rule...

      Unless you are very high-up.

  13. Crazy Operations Guy

    Could've rescued the children sooner...

    Would've been possible to rescue those children earlier if the FBI hadn't spent decades arresting people for viewing image and nothing, closing down the sites, then patting themselves on the back and doing fuck-all afterwards.

    Their previous methods only served to push the child molester community deeper and deeper into the shadows to the point where they are using technologies originally used for deep-cover intelligence agents spying on the Soviets at the height of the Cold War.

    The majority of Child Rapists started out viewing normal pornography and slowly found themselves getting into younger and younger subjects. They then felt very embarrassed about it and ashamed, but rather than seeking treatment (because they'd be arrested even going to people that are otherwise bound by multiple levels of secrecy and confidentiality) they turn to the forums of the sites in which they got those images. So rather than getting a response of "Yeah, its good that you came in, we will find a way to get rid of those urges and help you understand how you are hurting others" they now get "That is perfectly normal thing, you can now be yourself, you are in a safe community and that little girl in those pictures was enjoying it and wanted it. She even got a toy afterwards!".

  14. tiggity Silver badge

    Early sentence leniency

    Interested the article mentioned the admin earlier got 4 years probation for molesting a nine year old.

    Seems a very light sentence to me, not exactly much of a deterrent.

  15. RedCardinal

    >>Given that the site had over 150,000 members..

    Well given that the supposed 200 people actually identified haven't been prosecuted (and why not?) it looks like this operation has netted a huge 3 convictions. Yes I'd clearly rate that as a huge success....

    As for refusing to reveal how they took down the site in Tor I cynically suspect that's because it wasn't done via TOR but due to one or more members revealing info that allowed them to be identified and tracked down outside the dark web.

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