The folks over at techdirt.com came across an interesting matter concerning Georgia lawmaker Earnest Smith’s proposed law that would make it an offense to prank photoshop an image of another without his or her permission. According to Smith, the law poses little constitutional threat since in his words, there is no First Amendment Right to make fun of anyone.
While many may find Smith’s comments troublesome because they are just plain wrong on the matter (you can constitutionally make fun of someone – ask any cyberbullier) the issue raises a larger concern regarding the public perception of social media. The easy dissemination of hurtful comments seems galvanize lawmakers into lifting their legislative swords. These proposed laws are trying to criminalize the good manners that are better left to parents. I point you to a recent article by Lyrissa Lidsky and Andrea Garcia, How Not to Criminalize Cyberbullying, which eloquently highlights the problems and perils of such regulation.
When public prominence mixes with social media, bad things are sure to happen. Just ask Rep. Smith, who fathered the bill after his face was photoshopped onto a porn star’s body. Such conduct is pointless and juvenile. It is not, however, criminal in the American justice sense of the word.