Tenn. law bans posting images that “cause emotional distress” Well…

In a blatant act of stupidity, Tennessee lawmakers got a power boner and decided to make any image that could “cause emotional distress” illegal to post online. Not only is this law unconstitutional, but it is wildly subjective, and impossible to enforce.

The ban on distressing images, which was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week, is also an update to existing law. Tennessee law already made it a crime to make phone calls, send emails, or otherwise communicate directly with someone in a manner the sender “reasonably should know” would “cause emotional distress” to the recipient. If the communication lacked a “legitimate purpose,” the sender faced jail time.

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.

If you think that sounds unconstitutional, you’re not alone. In a blog post, constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh points out just how broad the legislation is. The law doesn’t require that the picture be of the “victim,” nor would the government need to prove that you intended the image to be distressing. Volokh points out that a wide variety of images, “pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group,” could “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities,” triggering liability. He calls the bill “pretty clearly unconstitutional.”

I would suggest that everyone takes the time to send anything and everything you can find to the Office of Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee to seek immediate approval, and the status of his level of “emotional distress”.

Governor Bill Haslam of Tennesseebill.haslam@tn.gov

A flood of Goatse and Tub-Girl pics to his inbox would work well too. HAVE AT IT INTERNET!