Is it legal to be in an online watchlist

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Is it legal to be in an online watchlist

Hello,

Is it legal for anyone to create an online Watchlist on people, even if the person was never convicted of the crime. I once search my name on the internet and end up finding my name on a watch list. I was labeled with pedophilia even though I was never convicted of the crime. My home address was also there even though I never gave that information to anyone.

The information is available online about my name and I feel it can ruin my reputation. I don’t remember abusing any child online or in person.

Asked on November 19, 2017 under Criminal Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There are actually two different issues here:
1) Is it legal for someone to create an online watchlist? Yes: anyone can create and publish, including online, any list of other people they want to create--lists of good doctors, of bad contractors who have defrauded people, of community members who have been arrested, etc. are all legal.
2) However, while in general terms, creating a list is legal, if it is not truthful and accurate, it would be defamation: defamation is the stating to others (which obviously includes posting online) untrue factual information about someone which damages his or her reputation. True facts are legal: so as indicated above, a list of people who were arrested, assuming such was drawn from public information and is accurate, is not defamation. And opinions (i.e. statements which are value judgments, not facts) are never defamation, so a list could be of "people I think are sleazy and completely untruthworthy," and since that is just a person's subjective opinion, it is legal.
But to make untrue factual assertions may be defamation. What you describe may or may not be defamation, depending on exactly what was said and the underlying facts. For example:
* Say that the list said that you had been convicted of pedophilia, child pornography, and/or child sexual abuse when you never had been convicted: that would likely be defamation.
* However, saying that you had been accused of pedophilia, etc. would not be defamation if you had ever been arrested or charged for it, since by being arrested or charged, you would have been "accused." 
IF you believe that the way this list was phrased/stated, it is untrue, you could sue for defamation. Just be certain it is before taking legal action: in the lawsuit, the other side can defend itself by showing that its statement was true, so if they can prove that you did what they claim, they would not be liable--and the accusation would have been aired on the record, in open court.


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