Federal authorities have just convicted eight American men in connection with an international child pornography ring that had been operating secretly online.

“1,600 children have been drawn to at least two pedophile’s websites, one in the U.S. and the other in South Africa,” reported Fox News Insider from Johannesburg.

“The ring drew in children and pedophiles from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Australia, Holland and South Africa.”

A bigger chunk of the children lured to these pornography websites were between the ages of 8 and 13. Sources say that pedophiles lured the kids into their crime ring first by befriending them on popular websites like YouTube and Facebook.

“There, the men played specially recorded videos of kids, as if they were live chats”.

They coerced the children “to perform sexually explicit acts, which were automatically recorded, through the children’s own webcams.”

The sites have now been closed down. But “Operation Subterfuge, as it’s known, is not over yet”.

The Justice Department is now trying to extradite a South African man who has been sentenced to 10 years for child pornography to the U.S.

The child pornography market is expanding dramatically and viewing it could be the catalyst for some to engage in hands-on abuse of children, experts say.

The warning is contained in a research report to the child sex abuse royal commission as it tackles how to abuse-proof institutions where children are at risk.

The report on child exploitation material in the context of institutions says while there is no evidence to support a direct causal link between viewing child pornography and abuse, the “material may be a strong risk factor” for people already disposed to sexual aggression and deviancy with children.

The report prepared by University of Tasmania researchers says the market for child exploitation material is expanding and easy to access even within workplaces.

Jeremy Prichard and Caroline Spiranovic, who have published research on the explosion of child porn on the internet, point out that research in the area is relatively new and very few studies have examined child pornography in the context of workplaces.

But they say the exploitation material may be accessed, distributed or produced in the workplace using a variety of technologies and for a variety of purposes – personal fantasies, grooming children or financial gain.

The possession and distribution of child pornography is a criminal offence in Australia and is referred to as hands-off child abuse, to differentiate it from contact or “hands-on” abuse.