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Tennessee Forgets First Amendment, Bans 'Offensive Images'

Tennessee Tries To Ban Pretty Much Everything On The Internet

By 06.09.11

You’re going to jail, Corgi.

Tennessee is courting a war with 4chan’s /b/ with their recently enacted update to harassment laws.  Here’s the part of the update to the law which makes sense: if you’re directly harassing someone over the internet, it’s subject to the same laws as harassment over a telephone or through the mail.  Fair enough, and kind of surprising that wasn’t already part of the law.  Now here’s the part of the law that is completely artarded:

The new legislation adds images to the list of communications that can trigger criminal liability. But for image postings, the “emotionally distressed” individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you “should have known” that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. [ArsTechnica, emphasis mine]

In other words, it’s now considered misdemeanor harassment — punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500 — if anyone from Tennessee sees an image you posted which can “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress”, even if you didn’t send the image to them.  Under the ridiculous wording of the law regarding images posted online, just about any image posted anywhere could be considered illegal, regardless of the image poster’s intent.  Obviously, this law is unconstitutional and isn’t going to stay unchallenged for long.  Another part of the legislation is also questionable: a provision which would allow law enforcement to read communications on social networks without a warrant, something ArsTechnica makes a good case is contrary to the Warshak decision.

This problematic law comes after the news of Tennessee’s “Don’t Say ‘Gay'” bill and that the state of Tennessee just banned sharing your Netflix or Rhapsody account, including punishments as severe as being charged with a felony, meaning you could spend more than a year in jail and lose your voting rights if you let too many people watch Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow with your Netflix Instant account.  Something about this whole situation makes me want to send links to Meatspin to every Tennessee politician.


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