Subscription Internet based forum
A news service is an internet based forum which allows online discussion on a vast array of topics – many of which are legitimate and perfectly legal. A news service offers access to many thousands of ‘folders’ called newsgroups, each of which focuses on a particular topic of interest. Members can view and post comments, pictures and videos in them. Through Athenanews.com, paedophiles could buy access to news services and their subsequent news groups, which carried child abuse images of all levels.
On the front page (right) there was a search facility to find the newsgroups the site carried. Potential offenders could enter keywords relating to their preferences and get a list of relevant newsgroups.
If they then decided to join Athenanews they were offered a variety of payment options, dependent on the amount of download capacity they chose. The greater the download capacity the more content they could access and view. Subscriptions could be paid monthly, six monthly or annually.
Having had confirmation that the payment had been received Athenanews then delivered a randomly generated username and password (an automated system produced this) and sent it to the email provided by the customer at the time of payment.
The username and password allowed the customer to enter the particular news service they subscribed to and gain access to the entire library of newsgroups. Entry into particular newsgroups, containing text, images and movies were then manually chosen by the subscriber. The suspects identified had selected to enter newsgroups which appear on the Internet Watch Foundation ‘banned’ list or contained titles which were suggestive of containing child abuse images.