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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  • by josh Location: knoxville on Jun 19, 2011 at 06:07 AM
    what about news source agencies that run stories that often offend some viewers how will that be dealt with or do media companies enjoy exemption and allowable differences to practice free speech in the interest of "bringing the news"(making money)
  • by JacobMaker Location: The Hive on Jun 16, 2011 at 10:11 AM
    I'm glad they gave us three vague adjectives, "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to help define the legal criteria required for one to be found guilty. It makes it very clear, being that intimidation is a form of fright, and fright is a state of emotional distress. You can tell a lot of careful thought was put into this law so that it wouldn't be abused, and judges would have the necessary guidelines to apply it fairly in all cases. It truly makes me proud to live in a society that has such a strong grasp of the concepts of freedom and civil rights. I mean, it's a no-brainer. If I'm offended, and you are responsible, then you should go to jail for at least a couple of years. I don't know how we've gone more than a decade without this statute.
  • by hithereitsme Location: maryville on Jun 15, 2011 at 05:27 PM
    i hope they attach craigslist too!
  • by Robbin Location: Monroe County on Jun 15, 2011 at 05:06 AM
    Who thinks up this stuff? And when are the American people going to wake up and realize that our freedoms that we have taken for granted since birth are going down the drain, one right after another. All lawmakers who voted for this need to be given the boot. This is definitely a free speech issue.
  • by Brandon Location: Murfreesboro on Jun 14, 2011 at 04:24 PM
    I'm glad to see some media in TN covering this issue and taking it seriously. I must have missed it in Nashville because I have not seen any coverage here. From reading this new law, it seems an egregious assault on our freedom of speech and possibly free religious expression. I am still completely astounded that this law was passed in TN. I sincerely hope that the people of Tennessee will unite and petition within the law our legislatures to see that they vote to change this law so it does not violate our right to free speech. I do not see how Tennesseans will be living in freedom without free speech, in my opinion. Thank you VolunteerTV for your coverage!
    • reply
      by Larry on Jun 14, 2011 at 09:15 PM in reply to Brandon
      What is the bill number? I can't find it anywhere!
  • by LiLiana Location: Knoxville on Jun 14, 2011 at 04:02 PM
    Personally, I find every single picture of Bill Haslam offensive, frightening and emotionally disturbing....therefore I am offically a "victim" and I want Haslam arrested and fined for knowingly posting photographs that have "victimized" me. I also find most everything the state legislature says and does to be frightening, offensive and emotionally distressing so I want all of them fined and in jail too! Buncha MORONS we got running this state! Every single person in Tennessee better be up in arms and raising hell over this stupidity. Impeach 'em all I say!
  • by Michelle Location: Roane county on Jun 14, 2011 at 03:32 PM
    This "law" is ridiculous & unconstitutional. The entire Tennessee legislature needs to be impeached immediately over this. It should go before the Supreme Court & be challenged by every citizen of the state of Tennessee. VOTE THEM OUT & CALL FOR IMPEACHMENT NOW!
  • by Bubba Location: Mars on Jun 14, 2011 at 02:38 AM
    I guess all the dopers, thieves and murderers are finally taken care of, so TN has plenty of idle time for its law enforcement enabling them to devote their talents to being the internet watchdog of a clearly unconstitutional law - too bad Obama's Justice Department doesn't think "free speech" is a worthy enough issue to challenge this in the courts.
  • by Doug Location: Lenoir City on Jun 14, 2011 at 01:58 AM
    Very broad in Scope. Almost anything is offensive to someone, who is to be the Judge! As always, Laws with good intentions infringe on Freedom of Speech or some part of the Constitution.
  • by Keith Location: East TN on Jun 13, 2011 at 08:08 PM
    Just another example of Government overstepping their bounds and infrenging on freedom of speech. It is time that people be responsible for their own actions and not expect the Government to police everything for them. They have no business looking at someones Social Site if they don't know them. If they see something that is offensive to them, use the Back Key and quit your crying.
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