The Tennessee ACLU said Tuesday it will sue to overturn the state’s new cyberbullying law as a violation of free-speech protections.
Bloggers and other commentators have harshly criticized the law, which takes effect Friday, because it makes it a crime to post on the Internet any image that causes “emotional distress” to anyone.
“This new law creates a chilling effect on expressive political, artistic and otherwise lawful speech and also turns political activists, artists and others into criminals,” ACLU-Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said. “In addition, anyone with an online presence, such as social media users, becomes vulnerable.”
The ACLU said it was “responding to numerous requests for assistance and after a thorough legal analysis.”
The law’s sponsor, Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, has insisted it contains sufficient safeguards to prevent unreasonable prosecutions. The law is aimed at combating Internet harassment.
But the ACLU pointed out the law provides no criteria for determining what is offensive or disturbing. It said the law’s “overly broad and vague language leaves everyone with an online presence vulnerable to prosecution.”
Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-Tennessee legal director, called the law “blatantly unconstitutional.”