by: Carl Willis Updated:
A state lawmaker wants to crack down on websites that profit from posting mug shots and then charging to remove them.
"I have every intention of trying to put some sort of legislation in place when we go back in January to address this issue, because it's not correct," said State Rep. Roger Bruce,
(D) Dist. 64.
Some of those pictured have only committed minor traffic offenses. Others have not, and will never be convicted of the crime for which they were arrested.
"The notion that you can take a public record and distort what that record represents, and then charge people to fix a problem that you created, I don't think that's right," said Bruce.
He said it's a growing problem across Georgia.
A simple search yields dozens of the sites, and a few companies dedicated solely to what they call "online reputation repair."
On Friday, Channel 2's Carl Willis discussed the issue with business owner Godwin Akpobiyeri. He said he's wrangling with two sites that have his 7-year-old mug shot on display. He was arrested for driving without having his license with him and later cleared.
"Something like this can break all your hard work down in a minute," said Akpobiyeri.
None of the sites Willis contacted responded with a comment.
Despite the disclaimers posted on some sites that all are innocent until proven guilty, Bruce believes the mere presence of a mug shot floating in cyberspace can kill a reputation.
"To take public records and use public records to extort people out of money, I think that's a crime in and of itself," he said. "Maybe their picture needs to be out there."
Some of the websites claim that the practice of using public information is covered by the First Amendment.
The removal fees can range anywhere from $70 to around $400.