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The 11 Things You Need To Know About The Tennessee Internet Law Regarding “Emotional Distress”
- The new Tennessee Internet law makes it illegal to cause “emotional distress” by posting images online.
- The new law, which comes into effect on July 1, 2011, will make a criminal out of anyone who:“Communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim by any method described in subdivision (a)(1), without legitimate purpose.” In other words: cyberbullying, cyber harassment and revenge porn are illegal in TN now.
- The transfer methods include telephone, writing, or electronic communication, including text messaging, fax messages, e-mail, and Internet service.
- The communication or display of an image can trigger the offense if done: “In a manner the defendant knows, or reasonably should know, would frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.” And “As the result of the communication, the person is frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed.”
- Interestingly, the “communicates with another person” provision already existed. The new Tennessee Internet law simply makes publishing pictures that disturb people an offense.
- Markedly absent from the law is a clear definition of “legitimate purpose.” This oversight needs to be rectified ASAP, as it leaves too much room for personal interpretation.
- This Tennessee Internet law seems to be unconstitutional on its face, as it effectively bans all forms of controversial printed or broadcast material. It places the onus on the speaker to establish their “legitimate purpose.”
- Threats are already illegal in Tennessee. What this new Tennessee Internet law does is ban all speech that offends, no matter how lawful it is, so long as a judge decides it lacks a “legitimate purpose.”
- Tennesseans may wish to take up residence in a jurisdiction with a greater respect for freedom of speech, such as North Korea, Iran or Inquisition-era Spain.
- Bottom Line: As a result of this new Tennessee Internet Law, be cautious about what you post online whenever there is a nexus to Tennessee.
- The law goes into effect July 1, 2011. It may be cited as T.C.A. § 39-17-308.