An American pedophile who had been living in Korea literally landed in a police custody sheet house plane touched down at an airport in the Philippines where he had arranged a meeting with someone he assumed was a 17-year-old girl. International authorities had been monitoring the man’s activity on the darknet and clearnet and had prepared for his arrival in the Philippines.
Antonio Bounab, 52, had attracted the attention of the United States Department of Homeland Security through posts on Facebook and other social media accounts. Initial reports revealed nothing regarding the events that landed Bounab on a Homeland Security watchlist. The 52-year-old may have unknowingly ended up on a watchlist for unknown activities or crimes committed while living in Brooklyn, New York.
One of the more reasonable explanations came from information revealed by Chief Superintendent William Macavinta of the Women and Children Protection Center in the Philippines. Cf. Supt. Macavinta conducted the sting operation in the Philippines that led to Bounab’s capture and an even more in-depth investigation into the alleged pedophile’s shadowy lifestyle spread across the dark web and clearnet. Darknet chat rooms and the social networks known and used by everyone.
The public has finally started accepting that pedophiles actively use regular social networks to contact children or minors in efforts to exploit their victims. Many so-called “vigilantes” have launched campaigns against suspected pedophiles on platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. Some researchers have noticed pedophiles increasingly flocking to specific Kik groups meant for users with specific sexual preferences or fetishes. On some of these groups, pedophiles attempting to prey on younger users blend in with the rest of the noise.
Of course, the use of clearnet sites and group chat platforms has not eliminated pedophile sites on the darknet. Even though law enforcement removes child abuse platforms on a frequent basis, pedophile sites live on. Now, though, many child abuse hidden services function as indexes that direct users to platforms and content stored on the clearnet. Some sites exist solely to provide access to clearnet chat rooms where other pedophiles have successfully obtained pictures or groomed children. “This trend is called online sexual exploitation. They know where to go. They go to the dark web,” Cf. Supt. Macavinta said.
After Bounab’s arrest, the task force in the Philippines revealed that Homeland Security had analyzed messages sent from Bounab to several underage girls in the Philippines. He spoke of living together and having children with them. The girls would likely have been less open to Bounab if they had known of his other girls. Homeland Security said that the man usually initiated relationships by paying the teenagers for pictures of themselves in compromising positions. He eventually promised them better lives and luxurious shopping trips.
Considering the number of children he had solicited, the promises of new lives, and Bounab’s focus on the Philippines, Homeland Security had very likely kept an eye on the man as a potential child trafficker. Law enforcement certainly arrest child abusers, but rarely do they monitor all internet activity of seemingly unimportant targets. In the Philippines, Bounab will be charged with human trafficking crimes. The Philippines has been a hotspot for child sex tourism. Cf. Supt. Macavinta hopes that with international cooperation, the era of trafficking in the Philippines will end.