New Tennessee law makes “offensive” online pictures illegal

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In an attempt to keep up with the changing times, lawmakers in Tennessee have created and passed a new bill that makes it illegal to spread "emotionally distressing images," if its determined you should reasonably know that the picture would cause distress. Of course, it doesn't have to distress the specific person you're sending it to or sharing it with — anyone who sees the picture could be considered a victim of your malicious image spreading. This is clearly a great idea that will definitely not go wrong at all.

Oh, there's one little problem: this is probably all unconstitutional.

If you think that sounds unconstitutional, you're not alone. In a blog post, constitutional scholar Eugene Volokh points out just how broad the legislation is. The law doesn't require that the picture be of the "victim," nor would the government need to prove that you intended the image to be distressing. Volokh points out that a wide variety of images, "pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group," could “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities,” triggering liability. He calls the bill "pretty clearly unconstitutional."

So be careful what you're sending around, Tennessee readers. On the upside, maybe this will stop people from sending you horrific images dug up from the deepest recesses of Reddit that will scar you for life. It probably won't, but at least you can now get those people fined or thrown in jail.