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House Addresses Free Speech Concerns With Whistleblower Bill


Photo: Socially Responsible Agricultural Project

Under the law, taking undercover photos at agricultural facilities or factories would be illegal.

A House committee made changes Thursday to a bill that would create new criminal penalties for activists sharing photos or videos of potentially embarrassing or illegal activities at farms and factories. The changes are intended to help ease concerns about free speech issues.

The original bill made it a crime to disseminate photos or videos taken at agricultural and industrial operations intended to harm the business, such as animal rights activists posting defaming video of slaughterhouses. After an amendment approved in committee, the bill would now make it a crime simply to take pictures or shoot video at all in an effort to hurt or defame the business, not mentioning distribution.

Supporters say the legislation still contains protection.

Senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle) says removing the dissemination language doesn’t make much difference.

“If you disseminate or distribute to somebody other than law enforcement, that is going to be prima facie evidence that you did something wrong,” he says. “So we don’t have to say for it to be understood that that’s illegal for you to have done what you did.”

Humane Society Indiana director Erin Huang says the changes certainly don’t make the bill better.

“I think even with the amendments, the point here is and the point of this bill is instead of cleaning up the abuses that have been uncovered in other undercover investigations, they want to prevent the American people from finding out about it,” Huang says.

House Speaker Brian Bosma says he still has some concerns about the constitutionality of the measure and will continue to study it as it now heads to the House floor.

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