Augusta lawmaker targets altered photos

ATLANTA — An Augusta legislator has found himself the victim of the type of online photo manipulation that he is working to outlaw.

Rep. Earnest Smith said Monday that he learned last week that someone had digitally pasted his head on the body of a nude man. That’s why he’s cosponsoring a bill that would make such manipulation a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine. It was authored by fellow Democrat Pam Dickerson, of Conyers, who first introduced it last year in response to online attacks on a teenage girl.

“It’s clear that we need to do something,” he said.

Smith said he doesn’t know who did it to him.

“I could not venture to give you an answer,” he said.

But political blogger Andre Walker, who writes Georgia Unfiltered, acknowledged creating the altered photo. He said he found a pornographic picture of a man whose skin tones matched Smith’s, pasted on the legislator’s head and blurred out the genitalia.

“(Georgia Unfiltered) admits doctoring Rep. Smith’s picture to show the stupidity of his Photoshop bill,” Walker wrote in a text message.

The bill went nowhere last year, but Smith said he hopes lawmakers will see it could happen to them.

So far, he has heard no objections from free-speech advocates defending the Constitution’s First Amendment.

“No one has a right to make fun of anyone. You have a right to speak, but no one has a right to disparage another person. It’s not a First Amendment right,” he said.

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