Photographs in my resolved section

As everyone knows, in my resolved section I put one photo of each located missing person as well as their names and particulars of disappearance and recovery. This is just so people can remember the original case — it seems to be easier to recall the face than the name.

Once in awhile I get emails from people in that section asking me to take their messages off. (In one case, it was the daughter of a missing man who was found dead, who asked me to remove his notice. She didn’t say why.) I always comply with such requests. The last one was in June. This woman, a former runaway, was really ticked off and got all in my face about it (capital letters, etc) threatening to sue me. I removed her photo and reminded her that, as I say on my contact page, all she had to do was ask politely.

I confess that I am occasionally troubled, especially about young runaways. It’s a sad fact that teens occasionally get silly or compromising stuff about them posted online (often they do the posting themselves) and it comes back to haunt them later when they become adults and choose to apply for colleges and jobs. If a potential employer Googled the applicant’s name and discovered from my site that they had run away as a teen and were gone for a considerable length of time, that might kill the job right there no matter how qualified the applicant was. The employer might write him or her off as flaky and unstable or something.

However, my removing all mention of the located individual from my website would not solve this problem, as there usually are a lot of other websites out there with their names and often their pictures too. I Googled a random runaway boy who was found months ago and found him mentioned on six other sites besides mine. I don’t like to contribute to this problem, of course, but I can’t prevent what appears on other sites. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to simply remove resolved cases without any notice at all. Actually, I do this quite a lot, like in cases where I find out a person was found ages ago, sometimes even before I posted their casefile — this happens all too often, as other databases forget to remove their located MPs. But whenever I can I try to post a notice. It’s just easier for the viewer that way.

I suppose I ought to just go on as I have been doing — post notices, and then remove them if the (former) MP asks me to.

On a related note, once in awhile a relative of an MP is upset because I posted an unflattering photo (often a mug shot) of their missing loved one. I just got an email a couple of weeks ago about that. The woman claimed people were saying “unkind things” about her uncle because of his mug shot on my site. Well, I had no other photo. (She has since provided me one.) And I believe in posting as many pictures as possible, so even if I have other pictures I will post mug shots unless someone asks me not to. I reason it this way: if the MP is alive, who knows what he looks like now. Snaps and portraits show him in a relaxed and happy state. But maybe he looks like his mug shot now — strained, stressed, upset. Though I can certainly understand the position of the relatives too.

6 thoughts on “Photographs in my resolved section

  1. Justin October 30, 2009 / 8:53 am

    Just go about it the way you have been doing. Some people will get upset no matter what you do. I wouldn’t get worked up about it, though I might try to get some legal advice to find out your liability in case some person does try to sue you, even if you comply with their wishes. Perhaps add some disclaimer somewhere on your site. But as long as you get your information from public sources and never knowingly put false information on your site, I think you should be OK.

    • Meaghan October 30, 2009 / 9:32 am

      They can’t sue me, I know that much. American libel law requires that the plaintiff prove the defendant knowingly and maliciously disseminated false information — a pretty high hurdle.

  2. Wendy October 31, 2009 / 4:52 pm

    The way you are doing things now is most fair and most practical. You are absolutely handling it correctly, and I think it’s generous of you to remove information when people ask you to. It’s too bad that some of them don’t ask nicely, because you’re not out to “get” anyone or to hurt anyone–you’re only trying to help.

  3. Tami November 5, 2009 / 12:12 am

    Maybe the family members should be more concerned about finding the missing relative or happy that they have been found rather then worrying what people may think about the photo you put up. You can only post what you have and any photo you have to post would be alot more helpful in identifying than not posting one at all. I mean, do they want their relative found or do they want to worry about what people think????

    • Meaghan November 5, 2009 / 12:59 pm

      Actually, a few weeks after the Charley Project debuted I got a very angry email from someone claiming to be the wife of a missing man profiled on Charley. She was livid that I had profiled her husband without her permission and demanded that I remove all mention of him from my website. She also made several very hurtful personal insults. I was flabbergasted.

  4. Angie November 5, 2009 / 1:42 am

    Meaghan, it is crystal clear that you are serious and responsible in your work; and that your motivations are honorable. Your respect for all of these people is obvious. You couldn’t possibly do it any more “right” than you’re doing it.

    It is unfortunate that today’s media obsessed society shows so many signs of inability to tell friend from foe, truth from lies, proof from vainglorious judgements. There’s not much you can do about that except keep sailing your boat and keep being exactly who and what you are.

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