Last night Rachel Maddow took on the highly subjective “I’m Offended, Go to Jail” bill, recently enacted by the state of Tennessee.
The bill alters TCA§§ 39-17-308 which deals with harassment. The bill, HB0300 sponsored by Charles Curtiss of Sparta and Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, changes existing code to include internet communications.
While this may have been passed as an “anti-cyber bullying” bill, the broad language could allow it to be applied to all kinds of communication, including that which is not intended to be threatening in any way.
For instance, Rep. Curtiss and Sen. Ketron may feel that I’m bullying them just by posting this. Would they then be able to press charges against me?
On the flip side, I find much of the legislation passed this session highly offensive and threatening. Because the bills as well as the debate over the bill is presented online, could I then press charges against the offending legislators?
Maybe I should test that theory.
Here’s what Maddow had to say on the bill.
I’m all for finding solutions to the problem of cyber-bullying, but this seems like a pretty vague law that ultimately creates a huge over-reach.
The SCOTUS has held over and over again that even ugly speech can be protected. Is this law even constitutional?
Who knows, but in the mean time, after July 1 I guess we need to mind our p’s and q’s online lest we offend the delicate sensibilities of these Tennessee legislators.