Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Posting This Image Might Be Criminal, According to Tweaked State Harassment Law

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Sweet Stache!
  • Sweet 'stache!
Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law this month a measure that could make posting a picture on Facebook or a blog a crime. It tweaks the harassment code, adding the transmission of "images" to the list of offenses that constitute the law. So what's the problem?

It's insanely broad, vague and amounts to a frontal assault on constitutional protections of free speech. The bill, authored by Sens. Bill Ketron, Andy Berke, Beverly Marrero and the usual cast of House goons, including Reps. Curry Todd, Terri Lynn Weaver and Tony Shipley, requires only that the image causes "emotional distress" and was posted "without legitimate purpose." What the hell does that mean? And who gets decide what is and isn't legitimate? The courts, I suppose.

According to the bill's language, the image doesn't even have to be some unflattering photo of the "victim" in this case. It simply has to distress them, meaning publishing images that provoke based on race, religion or politics could also be illegal.

Take, for instance, this mugshot of Zach Wamp, who was arrested in 1983 for disorderly conduct. The image is no doubt emotionally distressing to him, and I know this. I'm trying to make a point, but you could argue that I am acting "without legitimate purpose." That could mean I just broke the law.

H/T The Volokh Conspiracy

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