WEEKLY NEWS: Mugshot websites incriminate innocent people

A new form of online humiliation, entertainment and business has arisen in the past few months: mugshot websites.

According to a New York Times article entitled “Mugged by a Mug Shot Online,” various sites—such as Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots—have started publishing mugshots of previously arrested citizens and then charging to have them taken down.

Many such sites justify their actions by citing public safety and freedom of the press.

But isn’t this new form of cyber-torture a bit extreme? And especially so for those who were innocent?

On these sites, there is no mercy. Whether the accused was convicted or freed of all charges, it doesn’t matter; his or her picture will still be posted.

Granted, it is possible to get a photo taken down. But it costs hundreds of dollars. And that’s for only one site. Needless to say, it would be a very expensive endeavor to remove all of one’s mugshots from the cloud.

Such expenses make clearing one’s name online nearly impossible—unless, of course, the charged criminal is a millionaire.

Now I may have been too quick to judge. There are some sites, like JustMugshots, that will “graciously” remove the photos of someone who has been cleared or turned their lives around.

But what about those other sites? Even if one domain is kind enough to spare someone, very few other sites will follow in their footsteps.

No matter which way the issue is approached, people who are innocent are being punished. Not only is there social stigma involved with these shots, there are also complications when it comes to getting a job or finding clients.

Imagine being a doctor who was wrongly accused of possessing illegal drugs, and having that information and a photo to accompany it all over the world. All of your patients and their families would see these pictures. No one would ever want you as their doctor.

Yes, mugshots are and should be public, but does that mean that there should be sites solely dedicated to publishing them?

These sites are playing with the lives of many people who are trying to turn themselves around.

And if this really is a display of First Amendment patriotism, then why is there a charge to take the pictures down? If this is patriotism, then shouldn’t there be no exceptions? Shouldn’t everyone be shamed equally despite wealth?

Whether it’s an act of American pride or simple greed doesn’t matter. What matters is that guiltless people are being punished for crimes they didn’t commit. That’s not right.

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