Racketeering and Websites
Doxing, Doxbin, Encyclopedia Dramatica, and Revenge Sites
by Susan Basko, Esq.
I have mentioned a number of times that it can be illegal to be involved in certain ways as a user or admin or owner of a website such as Doxbin, that collects and distributes personal identifying information, or of an abusive website such as Encyclopedia Dramatica, which contains obscene or lewd pictures and writing and also posts peoples' names and personal information, or of some of the revenge sites, such as Cheaterville, that contain obscene or lewd writing, pictures, as well as some personal information. In this blog post, I will try to explain this as simply and clearly as possible. I will also explain how, under Federal Racketeering laws, rather than being liable for just one crime, a user, owner, or admin of such a site might be liable for ALL the crimes committed on the site.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If some other lawyer disagrees with my legal analysis, that is fine, they are free to write their own legal analysis. PLEASE note, the possible commission of crimes on the named sites is a legal analysis, and the criminal nature of the websites' activities is alleged for purposes of this analysis. This is for the benefit of people who may wish to avoid being involved in any way in possible criminal activity. The criminal nature of the sites has not yet been charged in any indictments or shown in a court of law. However, for those who wish to avoid committing any crimes, a cautious analysis of what is happening on these websites while knowing the laws, may help some people make decisions that may benefit them. Also keep in mind, if such crimes as are listed in this analysis were ever charged, the defendant(s) would be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
DOXING AND POSTING OBSCENITY ARE ILLEGAL: It is illegal to possess or transfer personal identifying information to commit or aid or abet a federal or state crime, as will be explained below. It is also illegal to place any sort of obscene or lewd writing or picture onto the internet, as will be explained below. The Federal Racketeering laws add a new dimension, where any one individual user, admin, or owner of such a site might be held liable for ALL the crimes committed on the site.
RICO LAWS: First, let's look at a recent case in which the federal racketeering laws were first used in regards to a website. In this case, a man named David Ray Camez bought a fake drivers license on a website. Because of the way the racketeering or RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) law works, the man was made liable for all the crimes of all the users on the site. Mr. Camez paid $300 for a fake drivers license and was held liable for $5.5 million in crimes. Note, he was not the owner or admin of the site, just one of its minor users. You can read about that case HERE on Wired, reported by Kevin Poulsen. I think many more users, admins or owners of such abusive websites will soon be brought down using the Federal criminal statutes as well as the Federal Racketeering laws, which can magnify the liability of each user, admin, or owner.
The federal racketeering laws, 18 U.S. Code, Part I, Chapter 96, § 1961 and on, apply to a certain list of types of crimes, which can be read at the link. This blog post will only cover two such crimes - doxing, or placing or using personal identifying information of another person for illegal purposes, and posting or viewing obscene or lewd writing or pictures.
DOXING/ DOXBIN: When speaking of a site such as Doxbin or other sites that collect and allow distribution of personal identifying information, this is covered under 18 U.S. Code § 1028 - Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information, which makes it illegal to possess or transfer a "means of identification" for illegal purposes, as such:
(7) knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law; or
(8) knowingly traffics in false or actual authentication features for use in false identification documents, document-making implements, or means of identification;
A "means of identification" is defined as:
7) the term “means of identification” means any name or number that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including any—
(A) name, social security number, date of birth, official State or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, employer or taxpayer identification number;
(B) unique biometric data, such as fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image, or other unique physical representation;
(C) unique electronic identification number, address, or routing code; or
(D) telecommunication identifying information or access device (as defined in section 1029 (e));
Sites such as Doxbin collect and post peoples' names, social security number, date of birth, and on and on, so that these can be used for illegal purposes. This is a crime under Federal law, as listed above. Under the Federal RICO law, a small time user of the site, or a person placing such info onto the site, or an owner or admin of such a site, might be held liable for all such crimes on the site if there is a "pattern of racketeering activity," which is defined as two or more such acts:
(5) “pattern of racketeering activity” requires at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years (excluding any period of imprisonment) after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity;
and if, as described in 18 U.S. Code § 1962 - Prohibited activities, the person spends or invests any money made as a result of such illegal activity in any business that is involved in interstate commerce.
So - Anyone who "transfers, possesses, or uses" someone else's "name, social security number, date of birth, official State or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, employer or taxpayer identification number" or other information to aid or abet any unlawful act is committing a federal crime. Sites like Doxbin are all about such activity. One might be charged with a federal crime for using such a site, or, under the RICO laws, one might be charged with ALL the crimes ever committed on the site, if the requirements of the law are met. This is basically what happened to the man in the David Ray Camez case mentioned above.
ENCYCLOPEDIA DRAMATICA AND other REVENGE ABUSE WEBSITES/ obscene materials and posting personal information: Some morally indecent websites are used for purposes of hateful revenge against victims. The admins and users of the sites post defamation (damaging lies), nude or lewd photos, obscene or lewd memes, and other such materials against people they want to harass as their victims. I use the example of Encyclopedia Dramatica, which posts shocking obscene pictures and lewd words. Encyclopedia Dramatica posts the names and personal information, as well as photos, of the victims on the site along with the shocking obscene photos the site owners and users seem to delight in. Revenge sites, such as Cheaterville, post lewd or lascivious writing and possibly pictures, also. The Cheaterville site has postings calling women lewd, lascivious, or obscene words, denigrating them, impugning them as being sexual indecent, and other such lewd writings. Some of the postings include lewd photos. The site is shocking and must be devastatingly harmful to the women who are victimized. Some revenge sites post nude photos of the victims. It is illegal to post or receive, that is, view or download, any obscene, lewd, or lascivious writings or pictures on the internet. The malicious nature of such sites as have been described, and the fact they victimize real people, would likely contribute to the materials being found obscene, filthy, lewd, or lascivious by a court. This is not merely the fantasy sadism of a lewd photo, but real life sadism of harming the victim's life, soul, livelihood, relationships, and very existence.
Under 18 U.S. Code § 1462 - Importation or transportation of obscene matters it is illegal to place onto an "interactive computer service," such as the internet, "(a) any obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, motion-picture film, paper, letter, writing, print, or other matter of indecent character" or to "receive" the same, meaning view or download. It is also illegal to produce or make such materials to be placed onto the internet, under 18 U.S. Code § 1465 - Production and transportation of obscene matters for sale or distribution. Such materials are described as "any obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, film, paper, letter, writing, print, silhouette, drawing, figure, image, cast, phonograph recording, electrical transcription or other article capable of producing sound or any other matter of indecent or immoral character."
So -- it is a federal crime to make or place any obscene or lewd writing or pictures onto the internet, as well as to receive, view, download any such items.
The Federal Racketeering law could be used to hold those using such a site liable for all the crimes committed on the site, if the requirements of the law are met, such as in the story of David Ray Camez above.
Websites such as Encyclopedia Dramatica and Cheaterville may have an extra level of culpability because they may violate some state laws that make it illegal to post any person's name or photo on a site that contains pornographic or obscene materials, unless the person gives permission. This might also enter the area of RICO law since the victims' names and information are posted in the commission of a state crime, and if the requirements of the RICO law are met.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: The doxing and obscenity crimes listed above each have penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment. If the acts are charged under the RICO law, the penalty is greatly magnified. The RICO laws have harsh penalties under 18 U.S. Code § 1963 - Criminal penalties, including up to 20 years in prison and forfeiture of property.
CIVIL REMEDIES: The RICO law under 18 U.S. Code § 1964 - Civil remedies allows any person who has been damaged by racketeering activity to sue and to get an injunction to stop the offending conduct and also be awarded three times their damages, the cost of the lawsuit, and attorney fees. The possibility of collecting attorney fees make such lawsuits possible, even for poor plaintiffs.