The investigation began in 2016 when the Spanish National Police identified dozens of WhatsApp message-sharing groups which were circulating child abuse material and traced the mobile phone numbers used in order to identify individuals involved, as well as those suspected of producing the abuse material, according to Interpol.
During the operation, more than 300 devices including computers, mobile phones, tablets and hard drives were seized for digital forensic analysis.
Bjorn Sellstrom, Interpol’s Crimes Against Children operations coordinator said police across the globe are committed to pursuing criminals who engage in the production and distribution of child pornography.
“Criminals will continue to exploit new technologies to share videos and images of child abuse around the world at the push of a button. But actions like Operation Tantalio send a strong message: police worldwide remain united in their efforts to identify, locate and bring you to justice for engaging in or benefiting from these heinous crimes,” he said.
“Whether these materials are being shared in person, by computer or using mobile devices and applications, the fact remains that at the root of this crime, a vulnerable child is being abused,” added Mr Sellstrom.
During the investigation images were shared with Europol and Interpol via its International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database.
The database allows specialist investigators to analyse the content in the hope of identifying both the victims and the perpatrators.
On average five victims are identified every day.
A police statement from Spanish police said that some 100 chat groups with 135 identified users in 18 countries in Europe, Central and South America as part of the current investigation.
Arrests were made in Spain, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Portugal.