Thanks to this fantastic New York Times article Google search results have kicked mugshot extortion websites to the curb. MasterCard, American Express, Discover and PayPal also sent the right message to consumers by shutting the door on these shady “businesses.”
It’s now overdue for the Florida Legislature to send a message to their innocent-until-proven-guilty-citizens and join the half dozen other states whose Senate and House both unanimously voted in favor of laws restricting online mugshot scams.
People MUST CONTACT FLORIDA LAWMAKERS and VOICE THEIR SUPPORT for SB298 and HB 265!
While nowhere near complete, the Mugshot Publishing Hall Of Shame is open to the public.
There are 2 things I’m tired of reading about:
1. People who have lost or can’t find employment because someone published their mugshot.
2. People commenting “Don’t Get Arrested” like it is some kind of revelation. While this generally would be the best advice as a way to prevent someone from publicizing your mugshot misery for their own financial gain– not everybody arrested is found guilty.
So what about if a mugshot publisher has an arrest record? How could they be so unsympathetic that they choose to publish other people’s embarrassing photos in the humilating context of a mugshot shame rag? It’s pretty lame that they never publish their own mugshots. Someone needs to remind them “not to get arrested.”
A new law in Texas “relating to certain business entities engaged in the publication of mug shots and other information regarding the involvement of an individual in the criminal justice system; providing a civil penalty” went into effect earlier this month. The passage of SB 1289 is just another step in the effort to stop the commercial mugshot publishing industry.
People ACTUALLY DO HAVE TO CONTACT THEIR LEGISLATORS now more than ever because, according to public record, online mugshot businesses are trying to prevent bills like SB 1289 from becoming law.
Public humiliation as a means of punishment is alive and well in American courtrooms. Whether or not the scarlet letter approach of sentencing people to create “buzz” about their own indiscretions is what we need as a society makes for an interesting debate. However, publicly shaming someone for being CONVICTED of a crime is much different than shaming someone who has only been CHARGED with a crime.
Johnathan Eric Venable, 32, of Odessa, Texas, will be debuting ‘Mugshot Magazine’ on July 15th according to Newswest9. Like most other mug shot rag tycoons, Venable makes false claims of fighting crime and he believes the potential of embarrassment one receives by having him put a mug shot “on blast” will help members of the community reconsider committing crimes being arrested. The publisher contradicts his own intentions in the exact same article by asserting “that it’s not to humiliate anyone.” Slapping the cliché “innocent until proven guilty” disclaimer on whatever he prints allows him and those of his ilk to implement their brand of punishment while bypassing due process. Print is dead and the profit motive of these publications will force them to create an online presence. As pointed out back in December, mug shot tabloids can be the precursors of pay-to-remove websites and they both exploit the same loopholes in public records law while “chilling” the speech of their critics with identical (often hypocritical) reasoning like “don’t get arrested.”
Bad publicity has recently taken on a more vicious characteristic than P.T. Barnum could have ever predicted before he said his famous words. Internet users are embracing the trend of broadcasting personal information as a new form of bad publicity. This new form of “punishment” is, perhaps, justly applied to the most egregious of individuals who may or may not break the law but certainly do cross a line. Now, because of mug shot racket websites, you need only to be charged for any crime (eventually found innocent or not) to receive similar treatment. Broadcasting personal information online is a surefire way to offend someone on a personal level.
We certainly don’t want the man beating the hell out of people for petitioning the government. This is a legitimate reason for why government watchdogs would be interested in viewing an arrest photograph. Some political activists and protesters even go as far as to encourage the media to blast their mug shots everywhere after they’ve been arrested because it brings more publicity to their cause. A recent situation in North Carolina reveals there is a toxic side in creating an arrest record while participating in a civil protest. “Moral Monday” activists who were picked up by police soon discovered that just about every detail of their personal life was published online by Civitas, an organization with a differing political ideology. In an even more notably dickheaded-humilation tactic, Civitas went so far as to create an online game out of their mug shots. Many viewed these actions as a form of intimidation and the high volume of incidents forced the local police department to actually modify the arresting procedure of protesters.
The internet provides us with the ability to publicize something for an unlimited amount of time. So let us all keep this in mind and behave responsibly. And if ever in doubt refer back to The Golden Rule.
But you don’t have take our word for it. Read about what the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center has to say. Then go file YOUR complaint.
The IC3 has received hundreds of complaints from individuals claiming they located their mug shots on 20 different websites, all of which allegedly use similar business practices. Some victims reported they were juveniles at the time of the arrests and their records were sealed. Therefore, their information should not be available to the public. Others stated the information posted on the sites was either incorrect or blatantly false.
Complainants who requested to have their mug shot removed, had to provide a copy of their driver’s license, court record and other personal identifying information. However, providing such information puts those at risk for identify theft.
Complainants were also subject to paying a fee to have their mug shot removed. Although they paid the fee, some of the mug shots were not removed. If they were removed, the mug shots appeared on similar websites.
If the victim threatened to report the websites for unlawful practice, the websites’ owners threatened to escalate the damaging information against the victim.
To help BUILD THE HYPE for the upcoming Mugshot Tabloid Hall of Shame Page, I am excited to announce our nomination for the 2013 Mugshot Tabloid Publisher of the Year Award!
It is my pleasure to present ….drumroll… David Bryant, 31, of Spartanburg, South Carolina!
Mr. Bryant, publisher of “Jail Birds”, is receiving the honor of this recommendation for not only laughing in the face of due process but for allegedly impersonating a sheriff’s deputy according to FOX Carolina.
Bryant earned his criminal charges for “larceny/securing property by fraudulent impersonation of an officer” after Verizon store employees suspected that he was trying to scam and intimidate them into giving him a free phone. It worked and Bryant successfully left the store with a $400 iphone he didn’t pay for. But– store employees notified the REAL police officers who then confirmed Bryant was completely full of shit.
Mr. Bryant’s actions show just how delusional people who commercially publish mugshots can be. Are they all unhinged enough to go around masquerading as law enforcement? Even better– does publishing mugshots make you a crime-fighting superhero? How about a reality check?
If you prevent and/or reduce crime let’s see the empirical evidence to go with it. Or do mugshot newspaper publishers actually commit more crimes than they prevent? Are they just a bunch of worthless hypocrites who don’t want to get real jobs?
Sure seems like it.
Journalists across the country are really stepping up to bat for the mug shot extortion industry by lobbying against legislation aimed to stop it. In order to fully understand the imprudence behind why they are doing this, we must commemorate the public outrage that ignited on Dec. 24, 2012 after staff at New York’s Journal News thought it would be a good idea to use public records and put together a map revealing the home addresses of gun-owners in the area.
When licensed gun-owners caught wind that these reporters decided to chart their home addresses by publishing them as red dots on a map, they fiercely rejected these actions. Asserting the newspaper had flagrantly disregarded their privacy, the dissenters attempted to prove their point by turning the tables on the Journal News’ staff. The newspaper was also unable to successfully fool anybody into thinking their project was simply about utilizing public data. Many pointed out that the newspaper’s intentions were tinged with a political motive meant to somehow imply gun-owners should be singled out and ashamed for exercising their 2nd amendment right. Lo and behold, there is now a law in New York exempting this information from public access.
Now let’s turn our attention back to those hideous mug shot tabloids. Some reporters claim these shame rags should be legal. That’s not surprising– American journalists are, after all, the undisputed champions of mocking people who wind up posing for booking photographs. Justly, legitimate news organizations like the Richmond Times Dispatch deserve to be handsomely rewarded for their creativity and expertise.
Professional journalists know better than anybody the vast importance of maintaining an open government. This importance goes well beyond the Mugshot Racket. Therefore, I do not understand why those who only exclusively deal in mugshots for commercial purposes seem determined to prove to the world that they are the most outspoken defenders of the entire Freedom of Information Act.
When it comes to policies about public arrest records journalists need to be honest with themselves on privacy issues or we are all going to be sorry.
Jessica Chavez is another reason why Texas needs a law to stop people from exploiting FOI access and distribution of public arrest records. The Lubbock Lineup may not have as much pizzazz as some of the other mugshot tabloid-rags across the state but it is Chavez’s inspired effort to digitize public humiliation that sets her newspaper apart. The “I Promise I Look Much Better on Facebook” section features police mugshots alongside “selfies” that are gathered from an individual’s facebook page. Copies are available for purchase at “all Stripes locations, Sonik Mart, Pronto Mart, 19th and 34th Street Liqour Stores.”
KCBD reports a lawsuit has been filed against the publication for allegedly profiting from copyrighted material. I wonder if “I Promise I look Much Better on Facebook” might also be considered a fabricated first-person quotation that is inaccurately attributed to the men and women featured on the page. That circumstance could possibly give rise to viable defamation claims.
But the point is Texas needs to pass HB 2861, SB 1289, and SB 1621 so that facebook shame divas like Chavez can’t make fun of other people for a living.
Classactionagainstmugshotwebsites.com is now on Twitter! #Mugshotracket
Date: March 10, 2012 7:54:14 PM CST
Subject: Fw: This guy has slammed and named you personally
It was a good idea taking that site down Timmy, now what about all that bullshit you wrote on your Twitter Account.
The internet has recently become a little less scammier. Gotchamugshot.com, a website that formerly charged both innocent and guilty people $99 to take down the embarrassing photos they posted, has closed up shop. Perhaps a sudden epiphany struck the previous owners inspiring them to retire from the miserable deed of being shame vendors. Let’s just hope that the website stays gone and that more disappear…
This is also a good time to reiterate to our readers that mugshot extortion websites do not exist to provide newsworthy information and they also lack anything resembling journalistic integrity. In fact, online mugshot scams are more comparable to those instant background check websites. Those companies are not considered to be news organizations nor do they claim to be. Mugshot Racket websites are just a different spin on the business of exchanging access to horded information that originate from public records.
Update: That darn website came back. I have to apologize to our readers for being too presumptuous by suggesting that the owner could have shut down this website for moral reasons. And the owner still accepts blackmail fees to remove mugshots.