Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

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Aetius
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Aetius » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:30 pm UTC

...i'm done with this thread. this is silly trolling.


I swear to god the internet has forgotten what trolling means. Hint: its not "fails to be swayed by my arguments."

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:36 pm UTC

scratch123 wrote:The types of blackmail I have in mind are something like revealing someone is cheating on there significant other unless you pay them.

And it's a form of blackmail. I'm not sure what your point is, or why you have any reason to believe it should be legal.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Mindworm » Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:15 pm UTC

I think I kind of get his point. Let's try and construct a clearer example:

Suppose there are two farmers living next to each other, next to a creek that both use for watering their plants. What if the one who lives upstream buys more plants and begins to take too much water from the creek, so that the other has not enough left? Assuming this is legal (I suspect that it might be in some countries), there is not much the latter can do about it, but he could make a contract and give the first farmer money on the condition that he always leaves a certain amount of water in the creek.

If this is legal, why would it not be if the first farmer just tells the other one about his plan to buy plants and offers to make this contract before actually buying (and wasting) the plants? The conditions could even be better for the other farmer since the first did not waste money on plants he will have no water to support. But one is blackmail (or is it? I'm not sure where the line would be drawn in this example), the other isn't. In this case, the scenario without "blackmail" is worse for both. And still it might be blackmail, because when the first farmer just tells the other farmer about his plan, this amounts to money being paid to him without any extra effort, just for not doing something he hadn't done in the past and maybe wouldn't have done anyway, because he is too lazy.

Of course, this is an example designed specifically to make the blackmail laws look bad. It's unlikely to occur (if nothing else, because this could very well be illegal in exactly the countries where it would be an issue) and I suspect if one tried really hard it would be possible to construct similar cases for other generally useful laws.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby scratch123 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:24 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
scratch123 wrote:The types of blackmail I have in mind are something like revealing someone is cheating on there significant other unless you pay them.

And it's a form of blackmail. I'm not sure what your point is, or why you have any reason to believe it should be legal.


So do you think it should be illegal to reveal someone is cheating on their SO and not ask for money? Why does asking for money change anything? You are clearly not threatening them because they are giving you money of there own free will. Also what if instead of directly asking for money you said something like this: "I know you are cheating on your SO and I have proof (shows convincing proof that could legally be sent to SO). If you want to make this go away what can you offer me in return?" Would this be considered blackmail since you haven't actually asked for anything? Under existing blackmail laws any money agreement couldn't be made by contract since blackmail is illegal but if it was legal then the contract could be made. If you are worried about the contract revealing private details then just encrypt part or all of it. If encryption is not allowed then use steganography. Overall the main advantage to having blackmail legal is it makes it so less private information about people is revealed and it makes blackmail contracts legal which further protects that information. Also I am still waiting for those anti-blackmail people to explain how plea bargains are any different from blackmail.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Midnight » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:25 am UTC

Aetius wrote:
...i'm done with this thread. this is silly trolling.


I swear to god the internet has forgotten what trolling means. Hint: its not "fails to be swayed by my arguments."

No, it means "intentionally taking a stupid or antithetical position to spark a reaction." Your arguments aren't good, they're not grounded in much of anything, and it seems that you're anti-blackmail 'just because'.

If this is legal, why would it not be if the first farmer just tells the other one about his plan to buy plants and offers to make this contract before actually buying (and wasting) the plants? The conditions could even be better for the other farmer since the first did not waste money on plants he will have no water to support. But one is blackmail (or is it? I'm not sure where the line would be drawn in this example), the other isn't.

I'm pretty sure that's not blackmail. Telling someone in advance that you're gonna take some water, and paying them for the water you're taking from them... I don't see blackmail in that.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:30 am UTC

I don't understand how you guys still don't understand the difference between 'amicable negotiation' and 'coercion'.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Deva » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:37 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:So do you think it should be illegal to reveal someone is cheating on their SO and not ask for money? Why does asking for money change anything? You are clearly not threatening them because they are giving you money of there own free will. Also what if instead of directly asking for money you said something like this: "I know you are cheating on your SO and I have proof (shows convincing proof that could legally be sent to SO). If you want to make this go away what can you offer me in return?" Would this be considered blackmail since you haven't actually asked for anything? Under existing blackmail laws any money agreement couldn't be made by contract since blackmail is illegal but if it was legal then the contract could be made. If you are worried about the contract revealing private details then just encrypt part or all of it. If encryption is not allowed then use steganography. Overall the main advantage to having blackmail legal is it makes it so less private information about people is revealed and it makes blackmail contracts legal which further protects that information. Also I am still waiting for those anti-blackmail people to explain how plea bargains are any different from blackmail.

Becomes blackmail when the terms are brought up seriously, according to my flash judgment. Does not matter if the victim sets exact figures or not. May call it a bribe instead of blackmail if the victim offers someone money to cover something up first, though.

Is not well-versed in plea bargains. Will try anyways. Views plea bargains as a separate situation. Putting it in terms of the cheating significant other:

Has this evidence against you. Will drop my case of cheating if you say you were ogling other people. Can also fight against my evidence and try to get away scot-free. Will not hesitate to make sure you garner the fullest scorn from your significant other if you refuse to admit any guilt.

For the cheater:
Takes the plea: -1 favor
Does not take the plea: -2 favor or nothing

For the prosecutor:
Takes the plea: Guilty verdict
Does not take the plea: Guilty verdict or nothing

For blackmailing (assumes the prosecutor stays true to their word and is nice about everything, somehow):

For the cheater:
With blackmail: -1 money
Without blackmail: -2 favor or nothing

For the prosecutor:
With blackmail: +1 money
Without blackmail: Guilty verdict or nothing

What is the difference? Essentially says that you can avoid any amount of justice by throwing money at the situation. Want to murder someone, like a telemarketer? (Sorry, telemarketers.) Life in prison or one million dollars (subject to how much you think you can milk from the victim). Want to cheat? Scorn or five hundred dollars. Personally believes that allowing wealth/many resources to ignore morals/laws is wrong. Cannot subvert the entire justice system/morality with a plea bargain. Cannot bring up the "illegal, so it does not count" defense because plea bargains are taken by people who have done illegal things.

Is not saying that plea bargains are great. Thinks the cheating example sounded silly in the context of one. Suspects that courts would be bogged down for months if every criminal must be tried. Read that "…more than 90 percent of criminal convictions come from negotiated pleas." (source) Would need to consider increased jail times leading to more crowded jails too. Ideal? No. Necessary? Perhaps. Still prefers the defendant facing jail time/monetary reparations made to related parties/scorn over the prosecutor filling up their own wallet (and/or receiving other benefits).

Amendment: Needs some definitions in here. Spoilered for length. Used thefreedictionary.com.
Spoiler:
black·mail (blkml)
n.
1.
a. Extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information.
b. Something of value extorted in this manner.
2. Tribute formerly paid to freebooters along the Scottish border for protection from pillage.
blackmail [ˈblækˌmeɪl]
n
1. (Law) the act of attempting to obtain money by intimidation, as by threats to disclose discreditable information
2. the exertion of pressure or threats, esp unfairly, in an attempt to influence someone's actions
vb (tr)
1. (Law) to exact or attempt to exact (money or anything of value) from (a person) by threats or intimidation; extort
2. to attempt to influence the actions of (a person), esp by unfair pressure or threats
Changes its form depending on the observer.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Midnight » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:56 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I don't understand how you guys still don't understand the difference between 'amicable negotiation' and 'coercion'.

no, coercion is legal anyways? or if it shouldn't, it should be, obviously.


but srsly itt: people who haven't been blackmailed.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:01 am UTC

Maybe semantics is the wrong way to approach this, but I'm referring to coercion as 'give me x amount of cash or something really horrible happens to you' as opposed to 'My business has a lot of loyal customers in this neighborhood, and we're expanding soon, if I pay you x dollars, can you keep your advertising out of this region?'
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Mirko » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:02 am UTC

I kind of agree, but I think it should be regulated, especially when it starts to effect people's rights as provided by the universal declaration of human rights.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Aetius » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:10 am UTC

Midnight wrote:No, it means "intentionally taking a stupid or antithetical position to spark a reaction." Your arguments aren't good, they're not grounded in much of anything, and it seems that you're anti-blackmail 'just because'


Thanks dad

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:13 am UTC

Aetius wrote:
Midnight wrote:No, it means "intentionally taking a stupid or antithetical position to spark a reaction." Your arguments aren't good, they're not grounded in much of anything, and it seems that you're anti-blackmail 'just because'


Thanks dad

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:30 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Maybe semantics is the wrong way to approach this, but I'm referring to coercion as 'give me x amount of cash or something really horrible happens to you' as opposed to 'My business has a lot of loyal customers in this neighborhood, and we're expanding soon, if I pay you x dollars, can you keep your advertising out of this region?'
Normally, isn't the term "coercion" reserved for times when people threaten to do something illegal? (For example, violence, termination without cause, etc.)

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:00 am UTC

Mindworm wrote:If this is legal, why would it not be if the first farmer just tells the other one about his plan to buy plants and offers to make this contract before actually buying (and wasting) the plants? The conditions could even be better for the other farmer since the first did not waste money on plants he will have no water to support. But one is blackmail (or is it? I'm not sure where the line would be drawn in this example), the other isn't. In this case, the scenario without "blackmail" is worse for both. And still it might be blackmail, because when the first farmer just tells the other farmer about his plan, this amounts to money being paid to him without any extra effort, just for not doing something he hadn't done in the past and maybe wouldn't have done anyway, because he is too lazy.

In that contract - provided both parties had lawyers look at it (which they should) there will be a clause that states that if the farmer does not purchase and plant any new plants that require more water, he has to return the money (likely along with a minor amount of interest as well).


Coercion is to use various methods (violence, extortion, blackmail, etc) to force someone to do something they would not voluntarily do. Such as paying you money. I don't think coercion in and of itself is illegal, but the methods you use to do it (assault, extortion, blackmail) are.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby ++$_ » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:07 am UTC

Okay, actually I read about how the term is used and you are right.

A quote from Wikipedia that I agree with:
Lord Atkin wrote:The ordinary blackmailer normally threatens to do what he has a perfect right to do namely, communicate some compromising conduct to a person whose knowledge is likely to affect the person threatened. Often indeed he has not only the right but also the duty to make the disclosure, as of a felony, to the competant authorities. What he has to justify is not the threat, but the demand of money. The gravamen of the charge is the demand without reasonable or probable cause: and I cannot think that the mere fact that the threat is to do something that a person is entitled to do either causes the threat not to be a "menace" ... or in itself provides a reasonable or probable cause for the demand.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby GhostWolfe » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:14 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:Why does asking for money change anything? You are clearly not threatening them because they are giving you money of there own free will.
But I'm not giving you money of my own free will, and that's exactly the point. You are using a position of power to exploit me, and quite frankly I have better ways of spending my hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Chen » Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:21 pm UTC

From the wiki page, the US definition for blackmail is:

"Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."


What does the "against any violation of any law of the United States" apply to? Does it apply to both the informing and not informing? Or just the not informing? Maybe I'm reading it wrong but unless the informing (or not informing) seems to be about a violation of the US law it would NOT be illegal. That doesn't seem right to me, so what am I misreading here?

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Aetius » Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:33 pm UTC

Chen wrote:From the wiki page, the US definition for blackmail is:

"Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."


What does the "against any violation of any law of the United States" apply to? Does it apply to both the informing and not informing? Or just the not informing? Maybe I'm reading it wrong but unless the informing (or not informing) seems to be about a violation of the US law it would NOT be illegal. That doesn't seem right to me, so what am I misreading here?


IANAL but that definition would seem to say that if you are aware of a legal violation, you cannot make your reporting of said crime contingent on being paid by the perpetrator. The underlying assumption would seem to be that an individual does not have the right to report or not report a crime as they see fit; which makes sense given obstruction of justice laws, subpoenas and other legal mechanisms for compelling information and testimony.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Mindworm » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:40 pm UTC

Midnight wrote:I'm pretty sure that's not blackmail. Telling someone in advance that you're gonna take some water, and paying them for the water you're taking from them... I don't see blackmail in that.

Hm. Would the water technically belong to whoever happens to live upstream of the other people? And unless I'm parsing that sentence wrong, it's not the farmer who ends up paying that commits blackmail (if it is). The other one is technically threatening to take water and making the downstream farmer pay to keep the status quo.

SecondTalon wrote:In that contract - provided both parties had lawyers look at it (which they should) there will be a clause that states that if the farmer does not purchase and plant any new plants that require more water, he has to return the money (likely along with a minor amount of interest as well).

I don't get this. Maybe I was unclear in the example, but I intended for the downstream farmer to pay in exchange for the upstream farmer not buying any more plants. If he did, he would be using more water, leaving not enough for the downstream farmer.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:08 pm UTC

My mistake, then the opposite would occur. If at any time the upstream farmer can be shown to have purchased any plants for that area, the downstream farmer would be refunded all money paid plus interest.

Assuming no water rights contract as dictated by the county/state already exists. Which in areas where water shortages are a problem for farmers.. this exists.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby scratch123 » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:31 am UTC

GhostWolfe wrote:
scratch123 wrote:Why does asking for money change anything? You are clearly not threatening them because they are giving you money of there own free will.
But I'm not giving you money of my own free will, and that's exactly the point. You are using a position of power to exploit me, and quite frankly I have better ways of spending my hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks.

/angell


You could use this same argument for any service transaction. When you are getting your hair cut the barber is using his position of power (the fact he knows how to cut hair and you don't) to exploit you and get you to pay him money.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TimelordSimone » Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:37 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:
GhostWolfe wrote:
scratch123 wrote:Why does asking for money change anything? You are clearly not threatening them because they are giving you money of there own free will.
But I'm not giving you money of my own free will, and that's exactly the point. You are using a position of power to exploit me, and quite frankly I have better ways of spending my hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks.

/angell


You could use this same argument for any service transaction. When you are getting your hair cut the barber is using his position of power (the fact he knows how to cut hair and you don't) to exploit you and get you to pay him money.

It is more like someone cutting your hair unless you pay them not to.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Cheezwhiz Jenkins » Fri Jun 17, 2011 2:25 am UTC

TimelordSimone wrote:It is more like someone cutting your hair unless you pay them not to.


That would be so annoying. I am now picturing a guy following me around all day snipping chunks of hair off me every time I sat down in class or to eat or surf. D:
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby GhostWolfe » Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:26 am UTC

scratch123 wrote:You could use this same argument for any service transaction. When you are getting your hair cut the barber is using his position of power (the fact he knows how to cut hair and you don't) to exploit you and get you to pay him money.
Except that I am soliciting a hair cut because I want one, and have the option to shop around and find a price/skill combination I'm happy with. Blackmail is being threatened with something I don't want (as demonstrated by TimelordSimone).

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Chen » Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:26 pm UTC

Aetius wrote:IANAL but that definition would seem to say that if you are aware of a legal violation, you cannot make your reporting of said crime contingent on being paid by the perpetrator. The underlying assumption would seem to be that an individual does not have the right to report or not report a crime as they see fit; which makes sense given obstruction of justice laws, subpoenas and other legal mechanisms for compelling information and testimony.


But is that the ONLY way blackmail is illegal? If you are informing or not informing of a legal violation? Or does the first part (the informing bit) apply ANY time you make the information contingent upon demands for something?

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Jun 17, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

Blackmail is a form of extortion, so it falls under the legal rules governing that.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Torvaun » Fri Jun 17, 2011 9:19 pm UTC

Let's turn this around to bribery. If I am a senator, I have the right to vote any way I want to. So why make it illegal for people to pay me to vote in a specific way? Surely you see the issues with that.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Death2 » Sun Jun 19, 2011 7:22 pm UTC

Sheesh... Blackmail is illegal because as the blackmailer you're using your own position of power to benefit at the expense of someone else. It's no different than robbery.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Aetius » Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:11 am UTC

Torvaun wrote:Let's turn this around to bribery. If I am a senator, I have the right to vote any way I want to. So why make it illegal for people to pay me to vote in a specific way? Surely you see the issues with that.


A senator is obligated to uphold the oath of office, which includes a clause to faithfully execute the duties of the office, which include good faith representation of their constituents. They don't have the right to vote for their own personal gain.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:07 pm UTC

Incoming: very long post with very short tl;dr at the end, if that's your style.

I keep going back and forth on this. I think the whole trolling tiff was about the fact that the OP is talking about blackmailing as a whole, and explicitly some variations of blackmail in theory, whereas the replies were very much talking about blackmailing as it usually occurs in practice and with a personal emphasis.

As has been outlined before, I agree that if you are blackmailing on something where it is your duty to tell or where you have no right to tell, these are clearly activities that should be illegal, you don't have the right to choose.

On the other hand, I almost feel like without those stipulations, I'm not entirely sure why it's illegal. It may be a jerk move, but I don't necessarily see it as being necessarily harmful to everyone involved. That old example:

Person A is married to Person B, Person C has evidence of Person A going to a car show (less moral tug than cheating), which is something that Person B is decidedly against. Person C also happens to be a jerk, that's just who he is. He is not, however, a criminal. So, he decides to show this evidence to Person B, and the relationship is ruined.

Now lets look at the situation again, but with "blackmailing" legalized, where "blackmailing" is defined as giving someone an option to go under contract to pay a specific amount of money to you in order to withhold information that you are legally allowed to release, yet have no legally required duty to do so.

Person A is married to Person B, Person C has evidence of Person A going to a car show, which is something that Person B is decidedly against. Person C also happens to be a jerk, that's just who he is. Within the new legal framework, he offers to go into a blackmailing contract with Person A such that he will not release this evidence as long as Person B pays him $1000. As an additional stipulation, Person A adds that if Person C does release the evidence, he is to pay back all the original $1000, an additional $2000 for breaching the contract.

Now I'm not saying these are the most scrupulous of people, but is having a framework for this really all that bad, theoretically? The only thing different in the two examples is that Person A has the CHOICE to pay $1000 and get the contract written up. Person C is letting Person A decide whether he would rather pay $1000 or have this information released. In the first case, he just releases the information. So which is better for Person A? Having a choice to decide which lesser of two evils they want to go with, or having the information released, regardless of whether they think it would actually be more valuable than $1000 to them?

If Person A would rather pay the $1000 than have the secret released and Person C would rather have the $1000 than release the secret (and would rather release the secret than do nothing), aren't these two people actually having a positive net gain here? The only argument I can see against this at the moment would be that Person C has a duty to release the evidence to Person B, which doesn't seem to make any sense to me, I'm not pro-lying in general, but if Person A wants to go to a car show, and I find out, I don't feel obliged to tell his/her spouse.

What other flaws am I missing with this in theory? Again, I'm not looking for anything like "people would use threats of violence in practice to make people sign these", as that argument can basically be used against making any contracts for anything ever, anything where someone does something illegal to try to exploit this, I think can be ignored.

tl;dr

Isn't it fundamentally as good or better to give someone a choice between the lesser of two evils, as opposed to just picking one for them? Please keep in mind that, in this case, both of these "evils" are completely legal.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby PAstrychef » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

What part of extortion don't you understand? Presumably, the person being blackmailed has a legitimate reason for wanting to keep X private. Why should you be able to force them to pay you, so that their legitimate expectations of privacy are maintained? Because that's what you're doing. Saying "pay me or I'll get you in trouble!" which is poor behavior on the part of bullies in grade school, and should NOT be condoned in adults in civilized society.
Ever hear of a protection racket? That's when I get to pay you so you don't break in and destroy my business. Should that be legal as well? After all, I have the choice of not paying, and trying to open a new business elsewhere.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:33 pm UTC

I guess the part of extortion I don't understand is where you think it applies. Do you think it is (or should be) legally considered a threat to say that you will tell this other person about Person A going to the car show? Should you face legal consequences if you were just telling that person you were going to expose evidence of them going to a car show? If that's the case, I understand where your argument stems from, but it doesn't seem like a logical place. What if we had a common friend and I "threatened" to tell them you post on the xkcd forums? You feel you should be able to take me to court over that? What if I just told them outright?

Everyone keeps using analogies that include illegal activities, which is exactly what I'm not defending, and is just not an accurate analogy. The difference is that destroying someone's business is illegal, giving someone evidence that someone else went to a car show isn't. These are two clearly different situations, one of which I am not defending in the least and the other I am not sure about, and think might be worth consideration.

Person A having a legitimate reason for wanting to keep information private doesn't stop someone from being able to expose it, so how does it change that you offer them a way out of it? You're not FORCING anything, you're giving someone an option between two things. How is that any less fair than making the choice for them and FORCING your exposure of evidence on them? The definition of doing something in public (e.g. a car show) is that you are giving up some of your rights to privacy, namely that people might find out you went to a car show.

Maybe some people think that it would be morally proper to let Person B know, as they are in a relationship with Person A and have the right to know that A is going directly against their wishes. Others would think it's Person A's business what they do and what they tell to their wife. It doesn't seem black and white whether it's right to condone interfering with someone else's relationships OR withholding important information like that from someone in adult society. Some people hire private investigators to essentially spy on their spouse and find out if they are cheating. I would argue that this is probably something we shouldn't condone in adults in civilized society, but it's legal and I'm sure others would argue that it's necessary.

Also, I understand the kneejerk reaction against this, but I specifically asked to not get counterexamples where one of the sub-actions is illegal, if you feel there's a reason to equate the two, I would love to hear it, but as of now, I'm with you 100% that we shouldn't allow blackmailing in cases where the "threat" is something that's actually classified as a legal threat. I just don't see how physically destroying your business is analogous to telling your spouse that you went to a car show.

I guess my problem is... why is it NOT ok to ask for money to not expose this evidence (which the recurring reason is that you're exploiting this person's shame of the event), and yet it IS ok to actually expose the evidence and shame them?

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Death2 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:28 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:tl;drIsn't it fundamentally as good or better to give someone a choice between the lesser of two evils, as opposed to just picking one for them? Please keep in mind that, in this case, both of these "evils" are completely legal.


No.

In one case from the pile of examples, a person is seeking revenge on someone else by publicizing information. It's not nice, but the person doing the blackmailing isn't getting any physical goods, services, or anything else, except some satisfaction for being a dick. There's no reason for the government to have to step in and tell the guy not to be a dick. For good or bad, you're actually free to do so around here.

But blackmail isn't just being a dick. The entire point of blackmail is that the person doing it is INTENDING TO BENEFIT TANGIBLY, and the kicker is that the whole idea is that they're gonna blackmail the person for as much as they possibly can. There is absolutely no benefit to society from this kind of behavior and there's no reason it should be allowed or condoned.

...

Ok, so I did read down to your example... Still no. The crime isn't the amount of damage done. The crime is the ill intent of the person doing the blackmailing and that the person took action to implement it. How the person being blackmailed feels doesn't have anything to do with the crime being committed. The blackmailers crime is doing what most of us consider an immoral act and that's why it's enforceable by law.

Below - Ranting and raving - not pertinent to what i'm trying to say...
Spoiler:
And in your example, if the guy was oh so happy to be blackmailed, why would he bother to report it to the cops? The blackmailer would just release the information then! And why would you need to codify something like that into law?! Are there a bunch of perfectly happy blackmailee's running around who are terribly upset now because their own blackmailer got put in jail? How are you even going to prove a case like that? Are these people writing up lengthy legal documents and getting them notarized?!



To bring some humanity into this, tell me who the heck is going to be happy about being blackmailed, EVER? No one would be happy giving up their stuff to someone else so that they'll not publish. If the person wasn't a dick they'd just not publish it in the first place.

Unless you can articulate a serious, tangible benefit to our society by repealing the law or changing it then there doesn't exist any reason to mess with it.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:06 pm UTC

He does benefit from being blackmailed if he has a legal contract with the blackmailer (which of course if this would legal you would do contracts so that they couldn't just blackmail you again - it's like if someone offers to forget about a car accident if you give them some money under the table, obviously a bad move for obvious reasons) and he agrees that the sum of money is worth more than the emotional distress of being exposed. Personally, I can certainly imagine a situation where I was embarassed by something that happened in my past and would prefer having someone come to me with the choice vs having someone just come out with the information. I don't think I would ever honestly be that ashamed of something I'd done to go through with payment, but I can certainly imagine such a situation in my head and believe that other people put more power in public shame, enough to indeed pay money to avoid it.

When I think about it, I figure these cases are more likely where Person C actively dislikes Person A, so maybe C's not a total dick, they just think Person A is a total dick. In that case, exposing them would generally be the right thing to do in C's eyes, unless maybe they're down on their luck and need money to feed a starving family. Excuse me if it seems like I'm trying to tug at heart strings, but mostly I'm trying to build a viable example here where no one is completely evil and everyone benefits, and it honestly just doesn't seem like that far of a stretch.

I'm not sure why a tangible benefit (money) is inherently so much worse than an intangible one (dickery for the would be blackmailer and public shame for the would be blackmailee). If the blackmailer decides that $1,000 is better for him than telling, and the blackmailee decides that paying $1,000 is better than having himself exposed... why does some lawmaker have the right to tell the blackmailee that no, the $1,000 is a tangible benefit, so it's illegal and you can't do that? The terms would certainly always be negotiable, it's like a car sale - of course everyone's trying to get as much as they can, but no one is actively forcing you to pay money... you don't HAVE to buy a car. I guess it's mostly because it's easier for lawmakers to say "this is wrong" when it usually is, than it is to say "this is usually wrong, but in these edge cases we will regulate it", especially if that's a really rare occurrence.

If you can't see the edge cases in what I've already pointed out, I guess you probably never will. I just think that the act of blackmailing being illegal (without any illegal sub-actions) may be a large blanket that probably does a lot more good than harm, but I can picture cases where maybe it would actually be a positive thing to take it case by case and allow it sometimes, when compared to what would happen with the law as it is now.

tl;dr I guess I agree that there's no way that it would be feasible to have blackmail be legal, and even if so, the amount of positive net outcomes would be minimal. Still, I have to say that it seems possible that the law could be preventing some amount of good. So I don't actively think blackmail should be legal (from a practical perspective), but I oppose the "blackmail is always an inherently negative approach" argument.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TimelordSimone » Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:30 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:The terms would certainly always be negotiable, it's like a car sale - of course everyone's trying to get as much as they can, but no one is actively forcing you to pay money... you don't HAVE to buy a car.


I think it is less like buying a car, and more like paying someone not to trash your car.

Anyway,
Death2 wrote:And in your example, if the guy was oh so happy to be blackmailed, why would he bother to report it to the cops?

If everyone involved is happy with the outcome, one imagines the police wouldn't get involved.
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Death2 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:46 pm UTC

Dude, you're completely missing it!!

You're overthinking it and missing the point entirely.

(EDIT: THE DAMAGES DON'T MAKE THE CRIME. YOU DON'T HAVE TO CAUSE TONS OF DAMAGE TO DO SOMETHING IMMORAL)

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:54 am UTC

*yawn*

If you have a naked picture of me, I'd rather pay you $100 than have you smear it all over the Internet. However, I'd even more prefer that you do neither, and it's unlikely that you'd be inclined to publicize said picture were there no financial incentive to do so. A blackmail law, in other words, makes me worse off if you were planning to harm me but would have preferred to get paid instead, but it makes me better off in the far more common case that you don't care to harm me except insofar as you can get money out of threatening it. So can we quit pretending that this is a case of paternalistic regulation?
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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby GhostWolfe » Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:06 am UTC

Intrigued wrote:If Person A would rather pay the $1000 than have the secret released and Person C would rather have the $1000 than release the secret (and would rather release the secret than do nothing), aren't these two people actually having a positive net gain here?
GhostWolfe wrote:Quite frankly I have better ways of spending my hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby Intrigued » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:41 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:*yawn*

If you have a naked picture of me, I'd rather pay you $100 than have you smear it all over the Internet. However, I'd even more prefer that you do neither, and it's unlikely that you'd be inclined to publicize said picture were there no financial incentive to do so. A blackmail law, in other words, makes me worse off if you were planning to harm me but would have preferred to get paid instead, but it makes me better off in the far more common case that you don't care to harm me except insofar as you can get money out of threatening it. So can we quit pretending that this is a case of paternalistic regulation?


I'm sorry to have bored you. Now can we quit changing basic pieces of my example so that it's worse and then pretending like that's a flaw in the example? I've already agreed that there are ways that allowing and not carefully regulating blackmailing could have negative net outcomes, so showing me one of those is an ineffective argument. It's also been gone over multiple times that revealing a naked picture against your will is a type of blackmail that would not be allowed, since releasing the information would be illegal.

GhostWolfe wrote:
Intrigued wrote:If Person A would rather pay the $1000 than have the secret released and Person C would rather have the $1000 than release the secret (and would rather release the secret than do nothing), aren't these two people actually having a positive net gain here?
GhostWolfe wrote:Quite frankly I have better ways of spending my hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks.

/angell


Don't know what /angell means, but again... this is about blackmailing as a choice in examples that would warrant it and where no illegal action is going to take place. Soooo, if you have better ways to spend your hard-earned dollars than paying people to not be dicks - don't spend your money on that. Really, no one is forcing you. Threats of violence and illegal activities are still illegal.

TimelordSimone wrote:I think it is less like buying a car, and more like paying someone not to trash your car.

Anyway,
Death2 wrote:And in your example, if the guy was oh so happy to be blackmailed, why would he bother to report it to the cops?

If everyone involved is happy with the outcome, one imagines the police wouldn't get involved.


Except someone trashing your car is an illegal activity.

The point is that people would get involved with the legal system from the beginning to create an actual contract, so that the blackmailee would have confidence that terms would be kept (e.g. the blackmailer wouldn't release the info AND have his money, the blackmailer wouldn't blackmail again with the same evidence 2 days later, etc.).

Death2 wrote:Dude, you're completely missing it!!

You're overthinking it and missing the point entirely.

(EDIT: THE DAMAGES DON'T MAKE THE CRIME. YOU DON'T HAVE TO CAUSE TONS OF DAMAGE TO DO SOMETHING IMMORAL)


Ok... but neither does something being immoral make it illegal. I guess I'd consider the exposure of the evidence immoral in this case, since all it does is cause someone emotional distress and possibly give someone else the satisfaction of doing it. It's still not illegal.

Better example? You go to a national monument with your family. Some guy is jumping around like an idiot in front of it while you just want to get a good picture with your family. He's wants to jump around like an idiot and it's totally legal, he understands that it's screwing up your pictures and he says "I'll go stand over there so you can take a picture if you give me $20". Yeah, he's being a dick, and you probably wouldn't pay him just on principle. Is it illegal? Should it be? Is it so hard to imagine someone who would care more about the nice picture with their family than the principle and who would rather just pay him the $20? The jumper is doing something that he wants to do, which is legal, which is a negative experience for you, but which he'll stop doing for money so you can enjoy some extra privacy that is not otherwise your right. He'd prefer the $20, but if he's not getting it, he'd prefer to keep jumping around like an idiot, even if it ruins your day. As always, you still have the choice not to pay the $20 and to just deal with what the guy is doing.

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Re: Anyone else think blackmail should be legal?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:44 pm UTC

Intrigued wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:*yawn*

If you have a naked picture of me, I'd rather pay you $100 than have you smear it all over the Internet. However, I'd even more prefer that you do neither, and it's unlikely that you'd be inclined to publicize said picture were there no financial incentive to do so. A blackmail law, in other words, makes me worse off if you were planning to harm me but would have preferred to get paid instead, but it makes me better off in the far more common case that you don't care to harm me except insofar as you can get money out of threatening it. So can we quit pretending that this is a case of paternalistic regulation?


I'm sorry to have bored you. Now can we quit changing basic pieces of my example so that it's worse and then pretending like that's a flaw in the example?

I'm arguing that blackmail prohibitions are good overall, not that they are not harmful in your specific invented scenario.
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