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Tennessee Bans Posting 'Offensive' Images Online 372

Chaonici writes "Last Monday, Tennessee's Governer Bill Haslam signed a law prohibiting the transmission or display of an image that is likely to 'frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to' anyone who sees it. In Tennessee, it is already illegal to use other methods of communication, such as telephones or e-mail, to offend someone; the new law updates legislation to include images sent or posted online. However, the scope of this law is broader, in that anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court finds that a violator should have known that someone would be offended by the image in question, they face up to a year in prison or up to $2,500 in fines."
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Tennessee Bans Posting 'Offensive' Images Online

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  • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:05PM (#36393566) Homepage Journal

    I'm pretty sure it would offend most people on here. Ironic that a law text should be able to break itself.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They say offensive images. Wait... does that mean this text is legal:

      What do you call a nigger with a stutter? A cocoon!

      But if you took a screenshot of it and re-posted it, you'd be breaking the law?

      Just askin'.

      Mature adults can get past the crude joke and appreciate the question I am asking. The rest of you will get your panties in a wad over it and should probably consider moving to Tennessee, where the good benevolent government will support your desire to control what other people say, post, and laug

      • Re:I'm so confused (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:57PM (#36394788) Journal

        i suspect this is just an extension of the purposely harassing someone laws that got royally screwed up in the process. they are designed to stop intimidation and harassment of someone specific by someone specific.

        An example of this is where someone's father has passed on and a person who is upset with them for any reason, decides to send pictures of him dead with captions drawn on it saying something I'm glad or something similar. It's to stop someone from calling up repeatedly and saying congratulations on losing your job, your house, your car, I'm gonna fuck your daughter and steal your wife.

        The ability of someone to do that can be debated, but the intentions would be pure malice and some people think the government has the ability to stop some of that by laws with penalties much the same way they do with laws against physical violence.

        Don't delude yourself into thinking something like this law was supposed to cleans the intertubes for the fine citizens of that state. It's more to do with crap like this []

        • Words and images! How terrible. Better ban the ones that offend certain people immediately and label them as "harassment" while pretending that they aren't speech.

      • by Bobartig ( 61456 )

        The statute language is inclusive of any "communication," so you do not need to re-package as an image. Your post is sufficient under the text of the law.

      • by spauldo ( 118058 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @09:48PM (#36396032)

        That text isn't offensive in Tennessee. Try changing it to something like, "those white women just love that black cock".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sqldr ( 838964 )
      I was gonna draw a picture of someone ramming a bottle of Tennesee Jack Daniels up Ghandi's arse while he urinates on Mohammad's face as he rides a half-cow-half-jesus into a hindu shrine whilst dressed as Hitler, but I don't think I'm that good at drawing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Google search. It's probably been done.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Governor, I find your face offensive

  • People are so thin-skinned these days and are prone to playing the offended/victim card. Tennessee must be a great state to be a lawyer.

  • I say any picture of Gov. Haslam is offensive and he should have known it. Put his arse in to jail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:07PM (#36393586)

    Does this law apply to online news sources as well? That would make it *very* difficult to report on the new in an unbiased fashion, since almost all news nowadays is sure to emotionally offend someone. Not that unbiased news reporting happens a lot these days.

    • by BigSlowTarget ( 325940 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:36PM (#36393880) Journal

      The newspapers will probably not be prosecuted unless they attack the DA or other political figures.

    • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:04PM (#36394206)
      The law requires that the image be intended to cause harm, and have absolutely no other purpose whatsoever at all. Newspapers are safe unless they start publishing pictures for no other purpose than to intimidate or threaten people (Oh, did you think the law said offend? that was made up by Ars Technica to get you offended!)
      • by causality ( 777677 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:19PM (#36394370)

        The law requires that the image be intended to cause harm, and have absolutely no other purpose whatsoever at all. Newspapers are safe unless they start publishing pictures for no other purpose than to intimidate or threaten people (Oh, did you think the law said offend? that was made up by Ars Technica to get you offended!)

        It's already illegal to threaten people. What does this law proscribe that was not already covered by existing laws?

      • That's really not a sensible line to draw. Any law that criminalizes offense will be highly subjective. Libel is one thing but laws against being offended are pretty much a competition to see who can complain the loudest.

  • Now, i am scared!
  • by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:08PM (#36393596)
    of this crap. These 'offensive' communications laws have been in place for decades, over radio, TV, and now the web. At what point is the government going to realize that just as with every other communication media, if one doesn't want to see/hear/view it, one simply needs to change the channel, click the back button, or (heaven forbid) turn the device off and go outside? Leave our radios, television sets and internet alone. I swear, if I hear 'think of the children' as justification for this crap one more time...
    • Think of the zombie children. What would happen if their food left?

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      The only people that like to scream "Think of the Children" are pedophiles.

      Real families and parents actually raise their child.

      • Real families and parents actually raise their child.

        I've heard of such things, but only in fairy tales...

        • That's weird. I must be reading the wrong fairy tales. Most of the ones I'm familiar with depict the families of protagonist children as cripplingly poor, sociopathically dysfunctional, or utterly aloof from the children, who are usually raised by peasant foster parents, wild beasts, or mythical creatures. Or fattened up for eatin'.

          So, apparently, truth isn't stranger than fiction; it's indistiguishable.

    • by uigrad_2000 ( 398500 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @07:28PM (#36395120) Homepage Journal

      of this crap. These 'offensive' communications laws have been in place for decades, over radio, TV, and now the web.

      TV and radio are much different, because they go over the air.

      Theoretically, I could censor all the radio stations in my town. If they have programs that use offensive language, I can just broadcast my own signal, louder than theirs, blocking out what I find offensive.

      Radio stations did not like vigilantes censoring them, and the result of this was the FCC. The FCC says that such malicious interference is illegal. As a compromise, though, they required all broadcasting stations to abide by basic standards. Sure, the constitution lets you say anything you like, but if you want the FCC to protect you from your neighbour's interference, then you have to abide by a certain amount of standards. Violating the decency standards of the FCC doesn't make you a criminal, you simply lose the license that was granted for your radio station.

      As far as I can tell, there is no equivalence with the web. FCC broadcast licenses are not required for posting to forums. Tennessee is clearly making this a criminal issue. I can't understand how it even got to the governor's desk, but I know for a fact that it will crumble the first time it goes to the courts.

  • Ok.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ArcadeNut ( 85398 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:09PM (#36393616) Homepage

    So if someone sends me an Image of the bill being signed into law, can I have the Governor locked up? If I lived there, I could argue that the bill intimidates me and causes emotional distress since I don't know if I'll be going to jail because someone found something I sent "offensive".

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:10PM (#36393622) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure some in the Tennessee leg finds this image [] NOT offensive in the least - they'd like to see more of it!

  • If I link someone to an offensive image (not that I would!), I'm not doing the transmitting. The person hosting it is. Does that mean that the person hosting the image would have to expect/know that someone would be offended?

    • If I link someone to an offensive image (not that I would!)

      Come on, don't be a pussy, do it ! [] (NSFW, beware of the dragons and other general warnings apply here) (good luck litigating against Switzerland, Tennessee !)
      There's a non-offensive SFW version here [].
      BTW both pages are in the first page of Google results for "offended".

  • Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RenHoek ( 101570 )

    Let some Tennessee statesman post a graph about projected job loss for the coming years and sue..

    In fact I think any imagery related with Republican elections are automatically in. Fox news is out of business in Tennessee as well. :)

  • Free speech (Score:5, Funny)

    by losttoy ( 558557 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:12PM (#36393638)
    hey Tennessee, Saudi Arabia called. They want their right to suppress free speech back.
  • by AioKits ( 1235070 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:12PM (#36393642)
    Oh, can't wait for this come the winter seasons. Nativity scene on the front lawn of a government property should do just nicely. It would probably fall under at least one of the 'frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to' requirements for someone out there. What good is creating a poorly worded cudgel if everyone doesn't get a turn at using it? Heheee.
  • Define offensive, because to a lot of people, the sight of politicians going around for votes and kissing babies is offensive. Will those pictures be banned? Stranger danger, beware of politicians!

  • by spidercoz ( 947220 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:14PM (#36393656) Journal
    It will happen, it's part of life. How you deal with it is what matters. You can either be an adult, suck it up, and move on, or you can be a little crybaby bitch and turn it into a huge legal stink costing taxpayers money.

    This is one of those bullshit laws that lawyers love. It doesn't even matter if they win a case on it, they still make off like bandits. How the hell they can even pretend to legislate something as completely subjective as "offense" is beyond me. If there were any real justice this would have been struck down as unconstitutional the moment it became law.

    Good job, Tennessee, once again you've made the whole country look like a bunch of backward illiterate morons.
    • "Offensive" is something made up by the media, or at least by Ars Technica. The bill never says offensive. The law says "Frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress." It's even in the summary. Hilarious you calling them illiterate while not even reading the summary. The law also covers intent. It ONLY covers speech that is intended to intimidate, frighten, or otherwise harass a person. So, no, this is no different than all the other laws against harassing phonecalls and the like. You have in in
      • So my grand father was a fire and brimstone southern baptist preacher. Most of his sermons were intended to frighten people of going to hell. So in this day and age he would have been breaking the law. The movie Reefer Madness was intended to scare people of the evils of marijuana. etc.... etc.....
  • I know a lot of people who are frightened of clowns, or spiders, or dogs, or women, or men, or.......

    Or how bout emotional distress?? what if you post a picture with your new boyfriend/girlfriend, your ex sees that and that causes emotional distress. You could face a fine or go to jail for that?

    No worries though, I'm sure this will only apply to things that frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a small select group of people...

    • No worries though, I'm sure this will only apply to things that frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a small select group of people...

      Like politicians seeing anything that they disagree with.

  • It would mean the end of 4chan

    • dude, regardless of what you personally think about it, you should be glad 4chan is there
    • It would mean the end of 4chan

      Well that certainly puts a different light on things. Way to go Tennessee!

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:21PM (#36393724)

    And a female wearing a Burka is offensive to others.

    Do they think through these laws?

    • So a female not wearing a Burka is offensive. And a female wearing a Burka is offensive to others.

      So by logical inference, females are offensive, and thus, by the proposed law, it is not allowed to post images of females online... Tennessee is undermining the very concept of the internet!

  • I'd love to take a quick spin through the images he gets send over the next few weeks.

  • Is Tennessee that backwards?

    The first amendment guarantees the right to offend, and obviously the law can only apply to people who are in Tennessee.

    Attention governor Haslam ... you probably have a tiny penis, and aren't smart enough to be writing laws. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

    Enshrining into law the right not to be offended is as stupid as you can get ... hell, I'm offended by your law. Now go to jail.

  • Here's who decides (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BigSlowTarget ( 325940 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @05:35PM (#36393860) Journal

    The only people who get to decide what's offensive are the prosecutor or DA (who brings charges) and the jury (if there is one). What you find offensive simply doesn't matter because it will not be brought up in the courtroom.

    In reality this will be a handy way of imposing legal costs, fines and jail time on anyone the DA doesn't like or who offends people with influence in that department.

    • by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

      It will be interesting to see what the first test case is. Is it a yahoo prosecutor, acting all stupid for the benefit of his electorate, or is it a prosecutor from a large county who brings a truly you-know-it-when-you-see-it offensive before the court?

      If I was the elected prosecutor, I'd let this law sit unprosecuted like a lot of the anti-union laws that were enacted at the turn of the last century.

  • You mean I can move to Tennessee and be guaranteed of never seeing Sarah Palin's picture again?
  • Jesus H. Christ (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ALeavitt ( 636946 )
    As a Jew, I take offense to any and all depictions of Jesus that depict him as caucasian, aryan, or naked. I suppose it's time to move to Tennessee and start suing the bejesus (pun very much intended) out of everybody.
  • If laws like this are getting passed, the end is near. The boneheads who put this through are generally running things.

  • by bmo ( 77928 )

    I find this offensive. []

    Sue itchy guys, uh huh.


  • next time i am in Tennessee i will be sure to only insult or offend people only while in person
  • Finale we are ALL criminals. Perhaps now people will get off their fat asses and use their second amendment instead of talking about it.

    Nah, won't happen.

    Oh well, luckily there is a way out. Voting, like in a real democracy. Oh wait, that is what got this mess where it is today in the first place. Not talking about the last election. It started somewhere in the 40-ties at least.

    Well, that is what you get with a bi-polar political institution.

  • Welcome to 1996, Tennessee!

  • a law prohibiting the transmission or display of an image that is likely to 'frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to' anyone who sees it.

    I could post my portrait and scare a good number of people.

    How bad would secession really be?

  • I don't think he realised how bad this boomerang he Hulk-Heaved out there is going come back at him.

    It will probably start with his email server melting down, then the Holy/Morality Wars erupt on Twitter and Facebook....their servers melt down, cascading to a DDOS from overload of our Justice Dept., followed by civil war, the Canadian and Chinese Invasions of a civil war-torn, blind-staggering USA, then...[....]...well, in the end you get hit by a bus, then eaten by a bear. ;-)

  • What about MY Pride? MY Respect?

    I thought Utah had a great year. Our wacky legislature tried their best, but not one of our efforts made the cut: []

    Well, I guess all we can do is cut educational funding some more and wait till next year.


  • That's no more offensive than Rick Santorum or Palin.
  • As a former Tennessean, it saddens to say that by moving to Mississippi for a job I ended up being in the more reasonably and progressively governed state. That might seem like an exaggeration, but the Government in Tennessee changed dramatically in the last state election. Before that, there was the occasional poorly written or conceived law that passed, like allowing guns in bars and other establishments where alcohol is served. Since the beginning of the year when the new legislature took office, there h

  • Dear Tennessee government:

    8===D ~o

  • You realize that this law would effect any of those right-to-life groups posting images of fetuses, as well as those animal rights groups and so on. I mean, their whole intent is to offend the common person to supporting their view.

    Note that the law does say "everyone", not "anyone". It's not enough to offend Aunt Millie, you also have to offend the toughest biker, butcher (as in, meat processing), etc. Okay, maybe those baby seal pictures wouldn't offend the butcher, and the fetuses wouldn't offend abortio

  • This is how they have it, its illegal to offend anyone for an reason.

    Lets hear it for free speech.

  • by woboyle ( 1044168 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @08:33PM (#36395594)
    "If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out"...

    Most billboards offend me and cause me undue emotional distress. Ditto religious displays, pictures of cops beating people, and politicians giving speeches. The first time I saw Ronald Reagan on TV as the replacement announcer for Death Valley Days after the old ranger quit/died, I got nauseated, and blurted out (I was 5 or 6 at the time) "I don't trust that guy!", and never watched the show again. So, according to Tennessee law, pictures of Ronald Reagan should be banned...

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351