ATLANTA - A state representative who wants to outlaw manipulated obscene photos online is now the target of such digital alteration.
An obscene photo of Rep. Earnest Smith began circulating on the Internet after he co-sponsored a bill to target Photoshop bullying. The photo depicts his head on someone else’s nude body.
Critics believe the bill attacks free speech, but Smith said it’s misunderstood.
“It’s not about adults. It’s about, again, the sanctity and privacy of our kids,” he told Channel 2’s Linda Stouffer on Tuesday.
Smith, a Demcorat from Augusta, said he’s trying to protect teens from becoming the victims of cyber cruelty. He co-sponsored the bill with state Rep. Pam Dickerson, from Conyers. She said it stemmed from a constituent who needed help after his teen daughter’s photo was altered and spread.
“She had sexual predators calling her and emailing her, and he was really upset about this, so he came to me because there were no laws on the book,” Dickerson said.
House Bill 39 would make it a misdemeanor to create an obscene image from someone's photo. Critics, including Georgia Unfiltered blogger Andre Walker, said it’s unenforceable and a threat to freedom of speech. Walker is behind the original obscene post featuring Smith’s photo.
“I have the protected right to Photoshop the head of any elected official onto the body of anything I chose,” Walker said in a blog entry entitled “Rep. Earnest Smith Shows His Thin Skin, Says I Have No Right To Make Fun of Him.”
Smith said he’s not bothered by the photo and other jokes about him online.
“They don't bother me. They bother my family. That's the one thing you should always remember. You're not just hitting one person. You're touching others as well,” Smith said.
The sponsors of the bill don't know when it will come up for a vote but said it may be rolled into a larger measure regarding bullying.