Orders Banning Speech That “Ha[s] a Substantial Adverse Effect … on the … Privacy of Another”

Minnesota law defines “harassment” to include,

repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.

If someone complains about “harassment,” a court can issue an order banning such “harassment,” and violation of the order will then be a crime. Given this, what are you free to say about other people in Minnesota, assuming you want to say it several times, and they’re willing to go to court to stop you?

Say that you have been (accurately) telling your and your ex’s acquaintances that your ex cheated on you, or infected you with a sexually transmitted disease — is that a “repeated incident[] of intrusive or wanted … words … that ha[s] a substantial adverse effect on the [ex’s] privacy”? What if you tell people that someone holds some publicly condemned religious or political beliefs that he has tried hard to conceal? The list could go on.

Note that there’s nothing in the statute that purports to limit this to speech that is a tortious disclosure of private facts, though that tort is itself constitutionally questionable, both on overbreadth grounds and vagueness grounds (given the lack of clear definition of the “newsworthiness” exception to the tort, an exception that does not appear in the statute).

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