Texas House Bill 2789, a law filed with support from dating app Bumble to criminalise the unsolicited sending of sexually explicit imagery, has received criticism on free speech grounds.
Attorney Don Flanary says the wording of the bill is not so specific as to only concern potential sexual harassment cases, as “sexually explicit” content is defined differently to “obscene” content in law. The former is protected under the US constitution.
As it stands, the legislation could encapsulate any unsolicited images of artwork containing nudity.
Sending a Texan doctor an image of genitalia could also be illegal, as could uploading an image of breastfeeding to social media.
Flanary explains: “The statue doesn’t talk about obscenity. It’s overbroad so it doesn’t say it’s a crime to send obscene picture through a text. It says it’s a crime to send anything having to do with sex.
“This is basic first year law school stuff we’re talking about. These laws were worked out in the ‘70s. Forty years later, the Texas legislature is writing laws that got struck down in the ‘70s So why in 2019 we’re dealing with it again? The only explanation is that our lawmakers didn’t pay attention in law school or maybe didn’t go to law school.”
He added: “Every movie that you’ve ever seen – it may have sexual connotations. It may even be nudity in an R-rated movie. That’s artistic. That’s protected under the First Amendment. So you can’t ban it. Just like they can’t ban your R-rated movies, they can’t ban your R-rated texts.”
Speaking about the law more generally, Dallas-based lawyer Morgan Meyer said in a statement: “Sending a lewd photo to someone that has not requested it or someone you don’t know is no different than exposing yourself to a stranger in public or performing other lewd acts.
“This is becoming a bigger issue among our teenagers and young adults, and while it seems less egregious since done over text or email, we must establish that this is not acceptable by making it a punishable offense.”
Sending a sexually explicit image via any electronic platform without permission could result in a $500 fine under the new law.
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