The road to hell is paved in good intentions, and the path to a police state is chiseled one protective measure at a time. First, they take away your right to share your Netflix password with your wife; then, they impose legislation making it a crime to disseminate disturbing or emotionally harmful images on the internet. Tennessee has had a crazy run of freedom-infringing technology legislation over the last ten days, but it’s hard to imagine this latest naively-conceived disaster won’t be shot down immediately.
HB 300 is now officially law in Tennessee. It passed with only three dissenting votes in the state legislature and was signed without fanfare or protest, but the unintended ramifications, if unchecked, could potentially affect your internet life. According to Digital Trends, who published an exhaustive and informative write-up, the measure was originally proposed in order to combat intimidation and cyber-bullying. For instance, if a defendant in an upcoming court case sent a .jpg of himself holding a gun to a witness’ GMail, that would now be considered a crime. There’s nothing wrong with that limited scope legislation. Unfortunately, as written, HB 300 allows the government to prosecute anyone who “transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim.”
Perhaps even worse, the legislation requires internet providers and social networking sites to turn over pictures and communications immediately upon government request. Just so we’re clear, HB 300 makes all your internet communication fair game for investigators if you’re accused of disseminating “disturbing images”. Which brings us the next logical point, what the hell is a disturbing image?
When I was younger, prior to the stupid, crafty internet providers allowing you to trace over a hyperlink, my friends and I used to send each other horrible, fucked-up videos and pictures with blatantly misleading hyperlink names. Here’s an example that you should absolutely not click on unless you aren’t at work and have no conscience: Is Britney Spears Losing Weight? I was also very partial to this grotesque and villainous ploy too: You Hear They Found An Unreleased Beatles’ Album? Under the terms of this new legislation, I would have been an internet predator, when in actuality, I was a jackass who deserved retribution. Don’t worry. That comeuppance came with this witty and intelligent dupe from my roommate: Great Tribute Piece On Peter Jennings. That’s right. He used Peter Jennings’ death as way to trick me into watching Asian women vomit on each other. Still makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time.
One man’s vile indecency is another’s joke. That’ll never change, but unless legislation like HB 300 is overturned, the decision of what’s offensive will be taken off the user and given to the government. That’s a fundamentally bad idea. Some people find any nudity disturbing. Other people can’t handle swearing or horror movies. Many of the best movies, LPs and television shows have been called disturbing at one point in time. That line should be drawn by the people.
To voice your displeasure, click this link to send a Tweet to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.