The video here is good to expose the extortion sites, but not all ex-sex offenders "prey" on the most vulnerable, and we are sick and tired of hearing this. Stop putting all ex-sex offenders into one basket!
The concept of blind justice isn’t supposed to be about turning a blind eye just because the victim is an unsympathetic character.
But the results of a Call 12 for Action investigation into websites that make money off sex-offender data raises questions about whether law enforcement weighs the popularity of the offended party when deciding which crimes to pursue.
This matters on a number of levels.
An eight-month investigation by reporter Robert Anglen found Arizona-based Internet companies are using information gleaned from law-enforcement sex-offender websites to demand hush money and engage in harassment against those who complain.
This opportunistic misuse of public information has been brought to the attention of local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies for nearly a year. Complaints have been filed with at least five state attorneys general — including Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
The response has been little more than a shrug.
Ten plaintiffs are seeking justice in a civil lawsuit filed in California. It charges that operators of Internet sites posted sex-offender information, then demanded hundreds of dollars to remove names, criminal histories, photos, phone numbers, addresses and other personal information. The suit says the sites contained inaccurate or outdated information.
Anglen’s investigation found that operators of SORArchives.com, Offendex.com and Onlinedetective.com did not take down profiles after payment was made, and conducted online harassment against those who complained, including posting personal information about family members.
You may be tempted to shrug this off, too. After all, it deals with society’s No. 1 pariahs: sex offenders.
But there are some really good reasons why you should care:
- Sex-offender websites were designed to help, not hurt, people. The information is, in the words of the state of Arizona website, “intended for community safety purposes only and should not be used to threaten, intimidate or harass.” It is not meant as a source of private financial gain.
- Not all those hurt by this scheme are sex offenders. Consider the Louisiana schoolteacher who bought a house formerly owned by a convicted sex offender — one whose name had been removed from the official offender registry in 2009. Offendex and SORAchives continued to publish her address as though a sex offender lived there, even after she paid to have the information removed.
- If entrepreneurs can claim this public info for profit — and use it with a disregard for hard facts — what else is out there that could be used to extort money from people?
Internet-based extortion — using real or mistaken information — could reach out and hurt you or someone you know.
Now it’s time for law enforcement to investigate.