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Man extradited from Ireland to Maryland on charges of operating darknet child porn distribution service

A 33-year-old dual citizen of Ireland and the United States faces child porn charges in federal court in Maryland as authorities say he helped host and distribute a large number of illegal pornographic files.

Eric Eoin Marques, 33, first made the news in 2013 when British and Irish news organizations reported that he was arrested on charges related to child pornography, with FBI officials saying he was the world’s biggest “enabler” of violent child porn.

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According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he was extradited to the United States on Saturday to face federal child pornography charges in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. He’s been charged with conspiracy to advertise child pornography and conspiracy to distribute child pornography.

In a news release, the office wrote that Marques operated “a free, anonymous web hosting service located on the ‘dark web’ ” from 2008 to 2013 that helped advertise and distribute child pornography.

“As of July 12, 2013, one site hosted on the (anonymous web hosting service) reported that there were almost 1.4 million files that were uploaded and accessible by individuals who visit the hidden service,” the office wrote.

Marques was ordered to be held before a detention hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court. No attorney was listed in federal court records as representing Marques.

News outlets reported that Marques was initially arrested in 2013 after a contractor used a malware attack to de-anonymize him despite his using Tor browsing and hosting services.

Tor — which provides anonymity to online users by routing users’ traffic through a series of intermediary servers — was initially developed to protect government communications. It’s been a useful way for journalists to communicate with whistleblowers.

But there has been backlash against the service because it also gives anonymity to drug sellers, such as through sites like the Silk Road, and enables the spread of child pornography.

Marques faces up to 50 years in prison on the two charges.

“Today’s extradition of Eric Marques demonstrates that no matter where you are in the world, the FBI and its international law enforcement partners will be diligent in their efforts to hold you accountable for your criminal activity,” FBI Assistant Director Robert Johnson said in a statement.

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