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Category: Technology Blog

Is Free Speech Threatened By CyberBully Law in Tennessee?

Tennessee lawmakers Charles Curtis - D. Sparta, and Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, have concocted a law, Public Chapter 362, making it illegal to "post any image online that causes emotional distress to anyone!"

That is what I read in the Tennessean the other day, and let me tell you -- after reading it -- I was ready to go and raise a lynch mob and go after this Mr. Curtis! I thought to myself "what right does this man have to tell me what I can post on the internet?"

In fact -- I was so livid at this man's overt attack on my first amendment; I dug right into to criticizing him and the other lawmakers who were supporting him.

I wrote and rewrote about how this was nothing more than a way for big brother to come in and take away our freedoms by using our children to convince us to give up our freedoms.

I went and hunted down some political cartoons to put up here in my blog, so that I could be one of the first to break this ridiculous law here in Tennessee! I read the TCA on harassment.

I was so mad; I could not even keep a steady train of thought. I wanted to write something good but all I could come up with was a hundred different ways to say the "MAN" was out to take away our freedoms and that anyone reading should beware!

I was so mad, that I decided that I would skip over to http://www.capitol.tn.gov/house/members/h43.html and find some pictures of this crazy, self important, left wing, freedom thief, make some edits to them that might offend him and put them up right here on my website!"

So I went to the Tennessee State website, and found this guy's page and a list of the various laws that he sponsored. I scrolled through them, reading stuff here and there, until I finally found this awful piece of legislature that was designed to turn Tennessee citizens into criminals if they exercised their free speech rights. I read every single word of that law! I read the list of people who were in on it with him. I read how they ran-it-by the attorney general. I read how it had been amended and changed up a few times! After reading it, I stopped for a second, read it again.

I was completely stunned by what I found at Mr. Curtisss web page. I was stunned because while I was perusing his webpage, it dawned on me that until that moment I had only ever read what I found in the news paper about the matter. I had, until that moment based my opinion on a small piece of information from the Tennessean newspaper. So after a closer look, I determined that the quote I found in the Tennessean was not even correct. I don't mean - out of context; I mean the quote did not exist. The Tennessean paper told me that this man was trying to outlaw posting offensive material of any sort by any person. that is not what I found on the website.

You see, I got all worked up over an article that was obviously biased and wanted to paint Mr Curtiss as a freedom thief before had a chance to research the subject myself. I had let a single article sway my opinion before I verified the story. I'm really a bit embarrassed because I pride myself on not getting brainwashed by the media and being able to make up my own mind about things. The truth of the matter, however, is that I had already decided that this law was bad and the people behind it were bad.

I went to that webpage expecting to find a law that put people in prison for exercising their free speech, and what I found was language that was mostly directed toward children, and the parts that may have been badly unconstitutional were revisited and rewritten.

This law does not say that "any picture posted that offends anyone will be a crime. It does say those pictures and other media that is posted with the intent to intimidate or scare someone, would be an offense punishable by 30hrs of community service!

So, the question is -- "does this law impede our freedom of speech?"

I don't think so. The early law had some language in it that would have allowed the law to demand log files and postings on social media sites without a warrant. That part alarmed me a some because that goes to our fourth amendment right to privacy and to be secure from government intrusion without due process of law. That part was changed later, though, to include a requirement for a warrant to confiscate files from a server or service provider. It is always a good idea to stick to obtaining a search warrant if you the law wants to search for things.

The law that passed was not this big bad wolf law looking to gobble up the freedoms of grown responsible people. It is aimed at children and as far I am concerned, the sentence is too light for someone who actually harasses another child to the breaking point. There are young people taking their own lives or other children's lives every day because they were bullied around until they could not take it anymore! With that in mind, I must applaud Mr. Curtis and the other lawmakers that sponsored this law. It is a first step toward dealing with this serious problem with today's youth.

In summary, I must offer my apologies to Mr. Curtis. I have decided not to publish an altered photoof him on my blog...LOL I will, however, add a link to his web page so that other readers can check it out and get the truth instead of jumping to the wrong conclusions like I did based on partial facts and misrepresentations.

D.Shaun Morgan

Author: D.Shaun Morgan

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