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Web prankster publishes personal sex details

This article talks about a sick web prank on Craiglist, where Jason Fortuny posted an entrapment (a fake sex ad) and then published the personal details (and in some cases, nude photo's) of those who responded via e-mail.

"If a really malicious person wanted to get on craigslist and ruin a lot of people's lives, he easily could. . .

He wrote, "178 responses, with 145 photos of men in various states of undress. Responses include full e-mail addresses (both personal and business addresses), names, and in some cases IM screen names and telephone numbers."

In a staggering move, he then published every single response, unedited and uncensored, with all photos and personal information to Encyclopedia Dramatica (kinda like Wikipedia for web fads and Internet drama). Read the responses (warning: sexually explicit material).""

Many folks are saying that Mr. Fortuny is mean and evil, but it appears that what he did is not a crime.

Sadly, low-income losers (without assets to take in a civil lawsuit) have free reign to ruin the reputations of private citizens without fear of jail time.

We all remember the famous 20/20 TV show where child molester were entrapped using the web, and the TV show had no qualm's exposing the personal details of the pervs because it is in the "public interest". 

Invasion of Privacy?

In this case, the article alleges that some of the respondents were married and seeking an adulterous relationship, but the central question is whether it's in the public interest to expose adulterers?

Many States have laws against invasion of privacy, and in some places you can be sued for disclosing embarrassing facts about someone, even if they are true.

In False Light Invasion of Privacy, A New Tort in Town, judges Breeeden and Zayicek note that the the right to privacy is protected in many States:

"the wrongful intrusion into one’s private activities, in such manner as to outrage or cause mental suffering, shame, or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities."

They also note that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that publishing embarrassing facts about a private citizen (even if the statements of fact are completely true):

This (U.S. Supreme) Court has approved the following as a fairly comprehensive definition of what constitutes an actionable invasion of the right of privacy:

The unwarranted appropriation or exploitation of one’s personality, the publicizing of one’s private affairs with which the public has no legitimate concern, or the wrongful intrusion into one’s private activities, in such manner as to outrage or cause mental suffering, shame, or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities.

In some cases, bloggers who embarrass people have been levied with hefty damages "The Pensacola News Journal was ordered to pay a $18.28 million jury verdict for actual harm to a businessman by casting him in a "false light."

"People who use blogs and message boards are publishing statements in a public forum and the same rules apply as they would if these statements were published in a newspaper.

"If a statement is likely to provoke hatred, ridicule or contempt, and the blogger is not able to prove that it is either true or a fair comment based on fact, then a libel has been committed."

South Carolina has strict laws against invasion of privacy.  In the publication "THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY vs. THE FIRST AMENDMENT" (1978), author  Alice Marie Beard notes that in many States it is illegal to intrude upon someone's seclusion or solitude, to publicly disclose embarrassing private facts about someone; or to generate publicity that places the someone in a "false light" in the public eye.

It ought to be a crime?

It appears that Mr. Fortuny is in a heap-o-trouble from lawsuits, but it he has as much money as he has ethics, it's likely that he is judgment proof.  As the old country lawyer one said "You cannot get blood from a turnip".

The really scary part is that anyone who is judgment proof (without assets) has free rein to disclose private facts and ruin the reputation of private citizens.


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