Tennessee Makes Posting 'Distressing' Images Illegal

Constitutional scholars question updated law
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2011 3:18 PM CDT
Tennessee Makes Posting 'Distressing' Images Illegal
Post the wrong image online in Tennessee, and you might face jail time.   (Shutterstock)

Constitutional scholars are raising their eyebrows over a new Tennessee law that makes it illegal to “transmit or display” an image online if it would “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress.” Doing so is punishable by almost a year in jail or $2,500 in fines. The bill is an update of an old law that made it a crime to directly contact someone by phone or email in a manner that one “reasonably should know” would “cause emotional distress,” Ars Technica explains.

But this new law doesn’t require there to be a specific victim, or for you to intend to distress anyone, one constitutional scholar notes. “Pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults about some political group” could all “cause emotional distress,” he points out, calling the bill “pretty clearly unconstitutional.” The law also allows the government to access communications on social networking sites—something one privacy scholar says should require a warrant given previous court decisions.

Click for info on another recent controversial Tennessee tech law. (Read more Tennessee stories.)

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