TN to start policing your online pics

By: Sara Shookman Email
By: Sara Shookman Email


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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- You've heard, what you put online can end up costing you in the future. Now it could land you in jail.

A Tennessee law that goes into effect next month bans 'offensive or distressing' images online. It's a move that could make your twit-pics, even your facebook photos, a potential crime.

The amendment is an update to previous harassment laws that governed communications over the phone or through email.

Ryan Trotter uses facebook to memorialize his life and speak his mind.

"I'm comfortable with how I express myself," said Trotter.

So the idea that Tennessee now could crack down on picture posts doesn't sit well with him. The state passed an amendment that means your online images could be a crime if they, "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress." And anyone who sees the snapshot can be a victim.

"The law doesn't make sense to me," said Trotter. "I don't think it's justified whatsoever."

Constitutional law expert attorney Rick Hollow says this an expansion of harassment laws on the books since the 90s.

"It's nothing new to have a criminal penalty attached to harassing communication," said Hollow, half of the Hollow & Hollow practice, who also serves as general counsel for the Tennessee Press Association.

The new law includes social networks and makes anyone, even an accidental viewer, a victim. And it's raising concerns about your right to free speech.

"What you see here is a perfect example of a basis for potential self-censorship," said Hollow. "It can infringe upon exchange of legitimate information."

Violations can get you almost a year in jail or up to $2,500 dollars in fines. There's no track record for how the law will work.

"We don't know how this thing is going to be enforced, we don't know if it will be challenged," he said.

While online manners are good, some photo posters want to patrol themselves. "I don't like anything scandalous or mischievous being on there," said Wes Cochrane.

"I think it's stepping on people's freedom and their rights to post whatever they want to," said Emily Jackson.

We've been asking you on our facebook page what you think of the law. You can weigh by clicking on the link above.

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