As society becomes increasingly connected, more and more people are trying to find “entertaining” things to post on social media outlets and other websites. Of course, there are photos and videos of cute children, comedic sketches, video blogs, and other, relatively harmless material all over the internet. But some have begun posting videos of violent interactions between teens and young adults, raising concerns that uploading and sharing of such fights encourages and glorifies violent behavior. Now, lawmakers in Illinois have proposed legislation that would make posting such videos illegal in the state.
Seemingly Simply Proposal
The bill was introduced by State Representative Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, after she was disturbed by an online video depicting a brutal fight between two pre-teens. The bystanders’ behavior was particularly concerning to her, as they watched and recorded the fight on their phones rather than helping or preventing the altercation. As proposed, the measure would make uploading fight videos or videos depicting other criminal activity a misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct. The proposal also limits prosecution to videos uploaded “to a social media website or social networking site” in a manner that promotes or condones the activity, and to those who refuse to provide the video to law enforcement when requested.
Critics of the well-intentioned bill point out a number of reasons that the proposal could create more problems than it solves. First, the measure lists the types of activities that cannot be recorded and uploaded to include a crime being committed, a battery committed intending to knock a victim out, a gang-related fight, or other display of violence. First, “a crime being committed” is far too vague in many people’s opinion; there are thousands of actions that technically qualify as a crime. Next, other displays of violence can be equally nebulous, as violence is not always illegal, especially when you consider the nature of many youth sports, including football, hockey, and martial arts.
The bill also only addresses social media and social networking sites, presumably to indemnify news organizations and other accepted outlets. Is a personal website or a blog a social networking site? Finally, the concepts of promoting and condoning the activity are particularly troublesome. For example, presuming the law passes as is, and a schoolyard fight video is uploaded to Facebook with the caption “Kids these days…” It is nearly impossible to determine if the post was meant to promote or condone the behavior, or simply as an observation.
Things to Consider
It is hard to imagine that prohibiting the uploading of such videos will help to solve the issues of violence in society. Charging someone else with a crime in addition to the criminal activity taking place in the video does not really address the root of the problem. Civil rights advocates also suggest that making the dissemination of such a video a crime is a clear violation of the First Amendment. There is, however, a long way to go before the proposal can become law and debate over the matter should be very interesting.
If you are facing criminal charges for your role in a fight or violent altercation, regardless of whether video footage of the incident exists, you need the assistance of a Joliet criminal defense attorney. Call 815-740-4025 to schedule your free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.