All of the men arrested reside in Norway, but police confirmed they were investigating one individual living abroad.
The investigation was said to have started following tip-offs from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose agents hacked into a dark net site used by the networks. An Associated Press blurb on the arrests was republished by a number of Western media outlets, including ABC, the New York Times and Washington Post, but has since been removed. However, the articles remain accessible via web archive services.
@BrittPettibone ABC and The Washington Post did also..— Lalafell Warrior ✘ (@fuzzytoad) December 10, 2016
Speaking to Sputnik, Janne Ringset Heltne, the police prosecutor heading Operation Dark Room, confirmed the investigations were very real and continuing.
"This investigation is still ongoing and will be for a long time, as the networks include many people. At this point in time 51 men stand accused, and they will be prosecuted individually."
Given the evident legitimacy of the story, why it has been retracted elsewhere is unclear.
Sputnik has contacted ABC, the New York Times and Washington Post for comment, and at time of publishing has not received a response from ABC or The Washington Post. A spokesperson The New York Times said the title published "several hundred" wire stories daily online, and these stories are removed as a matter of course after a few weeks.
Since the story broke, a new and unrelated case of child abuse shook Norway anew, as an elderly man from the city of Bergen was sentenced to eight years in prison for a series of online sexual assaults against children, perpetrated in Norway and the Philippines.