Home > News > Webmaster Released From Prison • Bookmark   • Newsletters   • Register Search Options


Webmaster Released From Prison

Webmaster Released From Prison
Get XBIZ News
Jul 16, 2004 9:01 AM PDT    Text size: 
LOS ANGELES – Webmaster Sherman Austin has been released from prison near Tucson, Ariz., where he served almost a year behind bars for hosting a left wing website that included some content that Austin did not write and was posted by someone else – on how to make bombs.

The case, plus the draconian sentence and parole terms imposed on Austin, has far-reaching implications for adult webmasters.

According to leftist magazine CounterPunch, on Jan. 24, 2002, the FBI and Secret Service surrounded Austin’s apartment in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Authorities seized his computer equipment, protest signs, political books, and more.

CounterPunch states that the warrant was supported by an FBI affidavit that contained two suspected charges – [1] distribution of explosives information with the intent that the information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence, and [2] alleged illegal computer activity that included defacement of web pages.

Austin was arrested Feb. 2, 2002, in New York City at a protest against the World Economic Forum.

CounterPunch noted that Austin’s anarchist site, raisethefist.com, featured what is known as an open publishing newswire, made famous by the indymedia.org network of sites, that allows users to submit text and photographs that instantly appear on the newswire at the push of a button.

"Austin provided free web storage space – or hosting space, to use proper Internet terminology – to activists who asked for it," CounterPunch observed. "Activists who took up Austin’s offer could, independently of Austin, and at their leisure and will, post, remove, and alter web pages they themselves created and authored.”

One user uploaded the following text to the site Austin hosted: “a small section with recipes for explosives. Its latter part appears cobbled together from and inspired by instructions on explosives freely available on countless websites accessible by simple Google searches, as well as published books. They do not appear very detailed, or for that matter, effective,” CounterPunch wrote.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Austin took a plea bargain rather than face a potential 20 years in jail due to enhanced terrorism penalties.

"U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson sentenced Austin to triple the sentence term the prosecutor had recommended under a binding plea bargain agreement, along with three years of probation,” reported EFF, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group dedicated to protecting digital rights.

KPFK , the Pacifica radio station in L.A., covered Austin’s return to L.A. on July 14, and reported that his probation terms are also extremely onerous.

Austin cannot speak on cellphones without receiving prior permission from his parole officer; authorities will download and review his computer files; and he is being confined to a halfway house at the start of his probation.

Austin, a 21-year-old African American, maintains that he did not author or closely review the offending passage, which was posted by another party on the site Austin hosted. The other party – reportedly an affluent white teenager - was not charged.

As Reagan-appointed Judge Wilson stated: “This is a case that has national, international overtones."

Austin’s case could theoretically be cited as a legal precedent wherein adult webmasters are held liable for obscene content, which does not have First Amendment protection, is posted on sites they host by other users.

A webmaster who only provides users with legal content involving consenting adults could potentially be prosecuted for child porn posted by others on sites they host.

More ways to get XBIZ News:  RSS Feeds  |  E-Newsletters  |  Desktop Widget  |  Mobile
Looking for porn star news and behind-the-scene videos? Check out XFANZ.com !


Cam World: Camming and Toys Go Hand in Hand

There is nothing more satisfying than pleasure, especially if it is sexual. The size or the presentation of the stimulus does not matter if the sensations and tension the body receives transform the way... More »

Cam World: Injecting Personality Into Your Room

Since the last issue of Cam World, I’ve made some significant life changes. I’m working from Colombia now. This was a decision that was not entered into lightly, but change gives you a chance... More »

Fraudulent Brazilian Trademark Registrations Running Rampant

Although you might not think often about protecting your trademark rights in Brazil, you need to — even if you don’t yet have a single Brazilian customer. Scammers are constantly looking for... More »
Stay informed of the latest industry developments. Get XBIZ newsletters delivered to your inbox. Subscribe today!
Enter email address:

* To manage existing subscriptions click here.

Submit your press release to
multiple news outlets with 1 click.
Subscribe to RSS news feeds or
add free content to your website.
Access XBIZ news and articles
with your mobile device.
Access the latest issues of the industry's leading trade publications in digital form. View online or download for offline viewing.



Mar 31 - Apr 02
Denver, CO.

Eurowebtainment 2017

May 17 - May 20
Majorca, Spain

XBIZ Retreat

May 30 - Jun 03
Miami, Florida

XBIZ Miami 2017

May 30 - Jun 02
Miami, Florida
Everyday thousands of business professionals browse XBIZ's industry directory for quality products and services. Not listed yet? Your company could be losing potential new business. Submit your company today!
Use XBIZ RSS feeds to stay informed of the latest industry developments or as a content syndication tool for your website!