VIDEO: UK busts global online child sex abuse ring
LONDON (CNN) — A wide-reaching pedophilia ring has been broken up, in a global operation.
Officials say people were paying to watch the sexual abuse of children, live online.
The child victims were in the Philippines, financing came from Australia, and there were customers from all over the world.
Timothy Ford and Thomas Owen have been convicted and imprisoned in the U.K. for paying to watch, via webcam, the live streaming of children as young as six years old.
A crime made all the easier by the internet, possible from the privacy and safety of one's home.
These arrests are a result of "Operation Endeavor" a U.K. led, internationally coordinated effort, designed to break a global pedophile ring operating out of the Philippines.
"Never before has there been as clearer link through straight from the developed world into developing world so that people who has got this sexual interest in children can actually reach those people that are in the most vulnerable and poverty stricken positions and exploit that in horrendous ways," said Stephanie McCourt, Operations Manager of the National Crime Agency.
Today's announcement revealed 29 arrests internationally.
Of those 17 were here in the U.K.; a further 11 were arrested in the Philippines, those running the service and facilitating the abuse.
Meanwhile 15 children between the ages of 6 and 15 were confirmed to have been rescued in the Philippines.
Perhaps most shocking, some of those arrested for facilitating are family members of the children involved.
"The situation of poverty that they're in, it starts off with the desperation of these people that they're in such an environment where in moral terms it's ok to put a child in front of a webcam for sexual abuse," said Stephanie McCourt.
Today's revelations include police evidence that some of the customers were in contact with each other, sharing their experiences.
One conversation between the two British men even shows them planning a joint visit to the Philippines.
"These people need to realize that what they're doing leaves a trail for law enforcement to follow so those offenders that are sitting at home tonight who think they can go online and target these children, abuse them to order, and pay them this money, they can believe that they will be found," said McCourt.
The sexual abuse of children is of course nothing new. What today's revelations bring to light is the growing role of the internet in this disturbing brand of crime. Not only in terms of the opportunities it creates for those wanting to take part. But the challenges it poses to the authorities trying to clampdown on such activities.