Will MugShots.com Be Illegal?
Websites, such as MugShots.com, that post people’s arrest photos or mug shots and then charge to have them removed could be made illegal in some states.
Some say, including lawmakers, that this practice basically amounts to extortion and is in the least, distasteful.
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Those in the online reputation management field, and especially others who have been directly impacted by the negative images themselves, are probably asking, “What took so long?”
Recently, the Colorado State legislature has advanced a bill that would make it criminal for companies that host these images and then demand payment to have them removed.
First Amendment Questions
For those states that try to legislate a solution run could into First Amendment issues. Mug shots are public record, so any bill such as the one proposed in Colorado, will not stop anyone from getting them.
However, states can make it unlawful to obtain mug shots to be used for profit. Under the proposed Colorado law, people requesting a photo have to sign a statement saying they won’t be using it for financial gain, and if they do, they could be punished with a $1,000 fine.
Why We Should Care
These mug shots rank extremely high and usually show up on the first page of Google searches. And when they do, they effectively ruin the online—and “offline”–reputation of those that were involved.
In some cases, the people were victims themselves, are wrongly accused or not convicted of any crime. If someone has been arrested and their images appear, they are in effect being punished again. As a result, their lives can greatly impacted, making it harder for them to find new jobs, rent apartments, or just live their lives.
What Does It Cost?
The charge for removing an image ranges from hundreds of dollars to nearly two thousand for many of these sites.
The only real alternative is to wage a web repair process, inundating the search engines with positive articles, blog comments, videos, presentations, and most importantly, images.
However, this can be costly, time consuming and usually requires a professional since suppressing these images can be especially stubborn.
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Other States Looking at Similar Bills
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 13 states have introduced legislation this year that addresses mug shots posted for profit. Wyoming is the only state to have signed its bill into law in early 2014, but Florida, California, Kentucky and Minnesota already have laws on the books. Last year five states, including Georgia and Utah, passed such legislation.
Often laws in the social media and online reputation management realm lag years behind what is happening in “the real world.” Hopefully, more states will consider similar legislation to effectively protect online reputations of those that have been negatively impacted by such mug shot sites.