New Tenn. law against distressing images raises eyebrows

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tennessee’s revised harassment code is likely unconstitutional, according to one prominent legal blogger.

Among other things, the new law makes it a crime to intentionally transmit or display an image that causes an individual emotional distress without a “legitimate purpose.”  What constitutes a “legitimate purpose” is not defined in the statutory language.

In his blog, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh highlighed the law’s application to social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“If you’re posting a picture of someone in an embarrassing situation — not at all limited to, say, sexually themed pictures or illegally taken pictures — you’re likely a criminal unless the prosecutor, judge, or jury concludes that you had a ‘legitimate purpose,’” Volokh said.

The Nashville Scene also commented.

The law is set to take effect July 1.