What was the world like before Americans thought that everything they did was newsworthy? A world without updating status, taking pictures of what you are eating, or taking selfies seems, to some, boring, and others, like Nirvana. What few people recognize is that with all the new technology, freedoms have been chipped away, as has anonymity. There isn’t really anything you can do that can’t be filmed, posted, and put on the internet for infinity.
Most people are completely alright with having the intimate details of their lives posted for everyone to see. But, sometimes they don’t think about the long-term consequences or the safety concerns that come with putting yourself out there all the time. The internet is one of the most perplexing forums not only to regulate but to put criminal laws into action or to enforce. One of the most recent challenges to federal law is last week when New Hampshire struck down the motion to make it illegal for people to take selfies in voting booths around the state.
New Hampshire residents can finally stop feeling the sting of oppression. Taking selfies while in the voting booth is no longer criminal or illegal. The federal appeals court has stricken the law making it a crime to take pictures while inside the confines of an official voting booth. Just last Thursday, the court made it unconstitutional to disallow a person to take a selfie while voting.
Why was the law even in place?
The law was initially intended to stop the occurrence of voter coercion. In a hypothetical scenario, those who pleaded to make it illegal insisted that if someone who holds a position of power over someone else took a picture of who they voted for and posted it, it may coerce those who are beneath them to feel afraid not to follow suit. It isn’t that the courts don’t believe that voter coercion is alive and real, it is just that they don’t believe that taking a selfie is a viable way to make someone feel coerced to vote in one way or another.
New Hampshire courts ruled that the law may not impose those types of restriction on speech as afforded by the First Amendment. It is unconstitutional to ban voting selfies to combat a hypothetical situation that may or may not happen. If the court allowed every hypothetical scenario to be played out, and tried to legislate it, the country would become chaotic and full of rules and guidelines. Also, many of the freedoms that we enjoy collectively would be a thing of the past. In a 22- page decision brief, all the reasons why you can continue to post selfies was outlined from start to finish.
The court went through many cycles of voting since social media has been around, and found that they couldn’t, to date, find any instances of voter coercion due to pictures being taken at the photo booth. A victory for many San Diego criminal attorneys who have made it their personal quest to make sure that the government isn’t allowed to interfere with the freedoms afforded by the First Amendment on social media sites. First Amendment protectors are obviously thrilled with the overturning of the “selfie” law in New Hampshire.
Social media has posed a problem in just about every type of law that we have in America from personal injury to criminal suits. The one thing that people should be aware of is that everything that they post online may come with the freedom of speech, but that speech can, and will, at any time be used against them in the court of law. If you want to take a selfie or post something online, that may be your right and prerogative. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do so with much thought about who is reading what you are posting, seeing the pictures you are flashing, and give consideration to the fact that once there, it is like a tattoo, virtually impossible to erase.
So, for now, go ahead and snap a shot of your voting booth or anywhere else that you would like. Just make sure that it isn’t going to come back to bite you at some point.