A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: there ougtta’ be a law!

Mugshots-for-Ransom: An Update

By LASIS Staff

A recent story by reporter Zachary Edelman analyzed the legalities of pay-for-us-to-remove-your-mugshot-off-our-websites businesses.

Our conclusion: “In reality, the websites aren’t exposing anything or anyone. Rather, the mug shots are public records that anyone could find if they knew where to look. The websites are simply putting the pictures into focus, if you will. This might not sound ethical. But it may well be legal.

“So Google is taking action. In response to complaints from victims of mug shot highway robbery, on October 3 Google changed its algorithm so that these pay-to-delete mug shot websites no longer appear near the top of Google’s search results. Some credit card companies have decided to discontinue service with these sites, as well. Without the ability to collect payments from individuals wanting their pictures removed, the sites may be forced out of business.

“And that might be a better solution, at least in the short term, than any court can offer. Because a picture isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t get the right exposure.”

In today’s New York Times, The Haggler updates us with some good news, some bad news, and a bit of irony to go with your Sunday brunch.

The good news: Some of these websites seem to have closed shop. And (with the exception of Visa) credit cards are refusing to have anything to do with processing payments for the mugshot-removal transactions.

The bad news: The attorney who brought the class action against the mug-shots has received a death threat via email. The person who sent the death threat, which apparently used the kind of language the New York Times doesn’t publish, also posted reviews of the attorney’s work on a consumer complaint website, accusing Mr. Ciolek of racism, alcoholism, and, according to The Haggler, “a few other isms.”

And the irony:  These consumer sites charge big bucks to remove such reviews. Mr. Ciolek, therefore, is now suffering the very same fate his clients have suffered. You’ve heard of Method Acting? Mr. Ciolek is now the poster child of Method Lawyering.

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