Advertisements

SO META: Here Are the Mugshots of the Guys Who Allegedly Run Mugshots.com (And Why They Were Booked)

The AG’s statement claims that Mugshots.com owners got $64,000 from about 175 people with billing addressed in the state. That’s over a three-year period. Of course, that falls way, way short of how much they raked nationwide: The four got over $2 million in “de-publishing” fees from 5,703 people.

 reports: The alleged owners of Mugshots.com have been charged and arrested. These four men–Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan–only removed a person’s mugshot from the site if this individual paid a “de-publishing” fee, according to the California Attorney General on Wednesday. That’s apparently considered extortion. On top of that, they also face charges for money laundering, and identity theft.

“This pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation.”

If you read a lot of articles about crime, then you’re probably already familiar with the site (which is still up as of Friday afternoon). They take mugshots, slap the url multiple times on the image, and post it on the site alongside an excerpt from a news outlet that covered the person’s arrest.

“Those who can’t afford to pay into this scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others. This is exploitation, plain and simple.”

— Attorney General Xavier Becerra

According to the AG’s office, the owners would only remove the mugshots if the person paid a fee, even if the charges were dismissed or if the suspect was only arrested because of “mistaken identity or law enforcement error.”

You can read the affidavit here.

According to the complaint, a man identified as Jesse T. tried to have his mugshot removed. A friend had reached out to him, concerned he might be prison. T. discovered that his arrest information from Sept. 2, 2013 was posted on the site. It had his full name, address, gender, and the charge he was arrested for. He went to the link to get rid of the mugshot–unpublisharrest.com–but they demanded a $399 fee. He got in touch with the 800 number listed on the site, and when the man on the phone told him he needed to pay the fee, T. said that was illegal.

[Read the full story here, at Law & Crime]

“The man laughed and hung up,” the affidavit said. The man hung up again when T. tried calling back to say he had proof clearing him of the charges. T. tried calling again three times on July 23, 2016. It went to a recording every time. After that, he got an unlisted call on his home phone, and he turned on a recorder before answering, the affidavit said. T. played the following message for investigators [sic, as written in the affidavit; his name is alternately spelled “Jesse” and “Jessie” in the document]:

Jessie T.: Hello

Unknown Male: -this third time tell you fucking bitch we’ll never answer your calls again you’ve been permanently published faggot bitch.

Jessie T.: Hey I’d like my stuff removed.

Call ended.

Records cited by the affidavit showed that T. was only detained by cops, but his case was dropped due to lack of evidence. Even so, the damage was done. The incident was treated as “detention only.” Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

The Porn Trial That’s Captivating China’s Internet

wsj-china-porn-trial

The porn industry is known for driving innovation online. After the live-streamed trial on pornography charges of four Chinese Internet executives went viral over the weekend, it’s now driving an unusually vigorous debate in China over how the Internet should be managed.

“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology.”

— Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology

At the center of the debate is Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology Co. Ltd., which is best known for running the widely used online video player called Kuaibo. Mr. Wang spirited self-defense in the face of allegations he helped disseminate thousands of sex videos has turned him into something of a Chinese Larry Flynt.

Similar to the Hustler publisher, who famously used his pornographic publishing empire to test the legal bounds of free speech in the U.S., Mr. Wang used the popularity of his company’s video platform to try to turn the tables on China’s Internet censorship regime.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Prosecutors alleged in the two-day trial in Beijing late last week that Qvod executives knew their video platform, Kuaibo, was a popular tool for watching porn and did nothing to stop it. They said porn videos, which are illegal in China, made up 70% of the 30,000 files police had pulled from servers connected to Kuaibo. Mr. Wang’s argument, delivered in a spirited and well-prepared defense that drew applause online: The company was responsible for producing the platform, not policing what people did with it.

“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology,” Mr. Wang told the Haidian District Court in Beijing.

Efforts by governments to hold the creators of online platforms responsible for the content their users post are hardly new. In early days of the Internet, U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo and America Online faced a slew of lawsuits — and a piece of legislation known as the Communications Decency Act — that attempted to hold them legally liable for hosting vulgar, misleading or illegal content. Generally, those efforts ended in failure.

In China, the outsourcing of censorship to the websites themselves is a central part of authorities’ strategy in trying to keep tight control over 650 million Internet users and the hundreds of news, video and social media sites they visit. Some technology companies consider the requirement a costly measure that stifles innovation.

Beijing has also increasingly tried to use criminal courts to regulate behavior online and quash rumors and criticisms of the government while also cracking down on porn and other illicit content. Read the rest of this entry »