Posted on June 10, 2011

Tenn. Law Bans Posting Images That “Cause Emotional Distress”

Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, June 9, 2011

A new Tennessee law makes it a crime to “transmit or display an image” online that is likely to “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines.


The ban on distressing images, which was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam last week, is also an update to existing law. Tennessee law already made it a crime to make phone calls, send emails, or otherwise communicate directly with someone in a manner the sender “reasonably should know” would “cause emotional distress” to the recipient. If the communciation lacked a “legitimate purpose,” the sender faced jail time.

The new legislation adds images to the list of communications that can trigger criminal liability. But for image postings, the “emotionally distressed” individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you “should have known” that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.


Another provision of the legislation governs law enforcement access to the contents of communications on social networking sites. The government can get access to “images or communications” posted to a social networking site by offering “specific and articulable facts,” suggesting that the information sought is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”


28 responses to “Tenn. Law Bans Posting Images That “Cause Emotional Distress””

  1. Question Diversity says:

    I have said it before here, and I’ll say it again, because it probably applies in this case — Whenever a government these days proposes and/or passes a law that seems weird, intrusive, invasive, or destined for, there is usually a silent racial motivation, an end-run attempt to do something about black or Hispanic crime without actually saying so. If the opposition to this bill was strong among Tennessee’s black Democrats in the state legislature, then there’s the leading indicator. I think the touch that sort of gives it away is “social networking.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear State Legislature of Tennessee,

    Your new law regarding internet transmission of items that cause emotional distress, has itself caused me emotional distress over a breach in the First Amendment. Please send me $2,500.


    John Q. Citizen

  3. Lucas says:

    Okay, so, no Confedrate flags. Umhh, no nooses…in fact, no pictures of rope. And don’t use the word “trigger” because that ryhmes with..well you know. And no pictures of three-masted sailing ships because they sorta look like slave ships. No pictures of men in sheets. And the list goes on and on.

    Soon there will be college courses to go hand-in-hand with “White Privilege”, “White Guilt” and “Diversity is our Strength”. The subject will be called “A Million and One Things That Will Offend a Minority”.

    This is all propaganda for the NWO liberal social-engineering.

    Freedom of Speech is dying the death of a thousand cuts.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Every time I see a photo of a sexy woman, it causes me severe emotional distress. This happens on an average perhaps 20 times a day, and every time I go to Fox News in the morning. Can someone direct me to the 800 number or wherever so that I can get my millions due to being traumatized by these images that will not give me peace?

  5. Howard W. Campbell says:

    I would hope that this one get quashed at the state or federal supreme court level. It is too vague and opens up the attorneys full-employment act of Tennessee. How do you enforce this if somebody posts something on Facebook in Kansas and the offended party is in Tennessee? Is the governor of Tennessee going to order the Kansas State Patrol to bring this scofflaw in? The KSP will respond to a warrant out of Tennessee for a felony charge, but shouldn’t be bothering because somebody in Nashville got their feelings hurt by someone in Lenexa.

    What if the Chiefs whip the Titans in KC and the scoreboard flashes something “offensive” that can be seen by anyone in Tennessee (or the nation) watching the game on TV, IPAD, laptop, Iphone, etc? Do you go after CBS or FOX and every service provider too? If the Tennessee National Guard is in Afghanistan or Iraq, could a member also sue even though he is not physically in Tennessee? I’m sure that the Judge Advocate General Corps division that handles wills, powers of attorney, and other legal matters over in tent 23-A wants to open up this can of worms. What if people walk into LP field wearing gear from the other team? Is an off duty Police Officer suddenly going to become offended and slam Matt Cassel’s Mom to the ground? (I believe she is White and therefore wouldn’t invite a federal lawsuit against said officer).

    I would think that Tennessee has more pressing matters than “Disturbing Images”. Just take a walk around Memphis.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So if Weiner had sent his photos to Tennessee, would he go to jail?

  7. Dutchman says:

    How could this law survive any constitutional challange? What is an image that causes ’emotional distress’? If someone posts a news photo of dead Syrian protestors and accidentally sends it to a wrong recipient and causes ’emotional distress’ they will have a $2500.00 fine?

  8. Preparation H-Bomb says:

    There’s no way such a law could be enforced. It’s way too broad, as emails are sent all over the world, and the rest of the world isn’t governed by TN law. If that one ever goes to an appellate court, and it will, it’ll be struck down.

  9. Sonya says:

    So does this mean ads and movies that promote race mixing are now illegal in TN?

  10. Anonymous says:

    So, who get’s the $2500. The state of Tenn. or the ”emotionally distressed endividual”?

  11. Grouchy Gram says:

    Because of distressing images, I will be required to fine myself. I looked in the mirror this morning.

  12. Cousin Charlie from TN says:

    Haslam is not a PC liberal. He’s sort of a “regular Tennessean”.

    Makes it more scary to me.

  13. Anonymous says:

    And how many weeks ago was it that Geert Wilders spoke about freedom of speech in the state of Tennessee? He and his nation have some experience with those who believe they have a right to be unoffended at all times.

    Can I be emotionally disturbed when the Quran orders Muslims to slay the unbeliever wherever they are found (Sura 9:5)? Or should I honor that diversity viewpoint?

  14. Question Diversity says:

    12 Cousin Charlie from TN:

    Isn’t Haslam only a generation removed from New England? I know his father was part of the Pilot Gas Station and truck stop fortune. I never really trusted him because hew as part of MAIG while Knoxville Mayor. He was the most liberal of the three major Republicans running for Governor last year (incidentally, I favored Wamp). I still say he’ll push for an income tax. Mark me.

  15. M says:

    “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

    We are a coddled society, weak and self-indulgent, and insecure. That naturally is what Political Correctness, “inclusiveness,” “tolerance,” etc. is all about, to render us without the will to stand up for ourselves and fearful of all conflict. By “we” I mean us white folk. Doesn’t seem to apply to non-whites…

  16. LOUNMOUTH57 says:

    I get emotionally distressed when I see an image of Malcolm X, Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton. Now what?

  17. Cogitator says:

    Every time I see an image of Barack Hussein Obama and/or Michelle Obama it causes me great emotional distress. How do I stop all the news organizations from showing him, and do I get any part of the fine since I am the injured party — the victim?

  18. Mr.White says:

    It cases me severe “emotional distress” each and every time I see a group of illegal invaders loitering in front of Home Depot. Does this now mean that illegal invaders loitering in front of Home Depot will now be a crime?

    Oh wait….

  19. Anonymous says:


    Another provision of the legislation governs law enforcement access to the contents of communications on social networking sites. The government can get access to “images or communications” posted to a social networking site by offering “specific and articulable facts,” suggesting that the information sought is “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.”


    Which essentially means that in order to build a case, they have to build a case. i.e. They -cannot- make a single point judgment of the image or text (sext) in hand. They -must- act on the belief that you are ‘habituated’ and thus give themselves an argument that they have to snoop before presenting evidence of the need for a warrant for ‘greater freedom of electronic snooping’.

    Talk about horses and carts.

    The way to handle this is: Have a thousand person student body at a high school choose a selection of images (swastikas, horror film stills, whatever) and post them on Facebook.

    Then do it again and again and again until they ‘get caught’.

    Then have their parents disown them to avoid paying their minor child’s criminal fees. And dare the Tennessee government to put them all under social services care.

    Such would expose the hypocrisy of the government which sought proof of continuing crime by monitoring a -supposed- crime without doing anything to stop it.

    There is such a thing as preventative law enforcement. And then there is witch hunting.

    This can only edge towards abuse of power from a needless opening position (because if it was serious like child prostituion or pornography there are already laws on the books to handle rapid electronic surveillance warrant issues).

    I myself don’t believe it has thing-1 to do with black and hispanic (flash mob/wilding etc.) crime because the cops already have an ability to intercept text and open-network server systems in their cruisers and so the easiest way to handle the issue would be to make those networks which you wanted open access to _free_. As every library network I log onto MUST SAY: “Any information over this unsecured network subject to monitoring, do you want to log on anyway? Y/N.”

    Blacks and Hispanics are cheap. Even if they use dialectic spanish, ebonics or some other form of ‘code’ a large enough sample size will give you the cryptographic breakin.

    Because it is ‘offensive material’ based, this is far more sinister. And thus certain to be aimed at whites.

  20. Diez Judenberg says:

    Check out what Ramzpaul – “The Great” has to say about this – simply hilarious!

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is hate speech phase II. The offendee can make any judgement as to whether or not he or she is offended by anything. Sure, it’ll probably never stand up in court, but it’ll sure tie up the system even further.

  22. Anonymous says:

    12 Cousin Charlie from TN:

    Isn’t Haslam only a generation removed from New England?

    I know his father was part of the Pilot Gas Station and truck stop fortune.


    Haslam? He may be “from” New England, but that certainly is not a New England-type name. No more so than Wong or al-Moustapha.

  23. John says:

    Obama’s picture causes me extreme emotional distress.

  24. WKSIII says:

    I grew up in the “sticks and stones may break my bones” generation…

    This is not freedom. America has done away with itself. Time to bring on what’s next.

  25. GERRY says:

    I want to see Gov. Bill Haslem along with any legislator that had anything to so with this insanity fined and imprisoned or both. They should also lose their jobs and be shunned from society for they have caused more “emotional distress” than any image posted by a web-site on the internet. I “am extremely emotionally distressed and upset” that our supposed leaders have spit in the face of America and our citizens by imposing their mean spirited, Marxist ideals on a free nation. This is America! and Bill Haslen and his cronies need to find a country that likes dictators. How an idiot like Haslen gets to be Gov. is way beyond me. I guess George Soros money has far reaching tentacles. One can only hope that “Spooky Dude will run out of money by the next election.

  26. Marc B says:

    I am not that surprised over this vote. Haslam was hand picked by the country club Nashville kingmakers just like the rest of the RINOs in high office around in these parts. The Memphis Tea Party is PATHETIC, doing little more than rubber stamping establishment NeoCons rather than drafting conservative candidates.

    According to this article Senator Corker (known to many as “Bailout Bob”) is attempting to co-opt the Tea Party in Tennessee:

  27. Seek says:

    Can someone tell me why Tennessee, of all places, would enact such a dumb and dangerous law? I thought the Volunteer State consisted heavily of Albion’s Fourth Seed, the Outer Celtic Protestants whose ancestors came here during the 18th and early 19th centuries. So why have legislators there enacted a law that makes it easier for blacks and Hispanics to make life miserable for whites and make a bundle in civil “damages?”

  28. Michael C. Scott says:

    Some persons have already complained online that my having married a Japanese gal caused them emotional distress. I would like $2500 from each of them, because their distress distresses me.