After tracking down a Reddit user who posted a GIF it found offensive, CNN threatened to reveal his identity if he decides to post anything similar in the future.
On July 2, President Trump tweeted out a GIF of himself punching a WWE founder Vince McMahon – with the CNN logo imposed on McMahon’s face. Predictably, CNN and the journalistic community were outraged, while Trump fans and media critics largely found the whole thing amusing.
On July 5, CNN’s website posted an article revealing that its reporters had tracked down the original source of the meme. Once he was found, the Reddit user who claimed credit issued an apology for this post, and for racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic posts he had made in the past. The user also issued a request that “people who troll on the Internet for fun” like he did should consider the consequences of their actions.
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Not content with that, CNN started with what definitely look like threats.
“CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo's’ name because he is a private citizen,” the statement from the network began. It should have ended right there, but it didn’t.
“CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo's’ name because he is a private citizen, who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.
“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.”
The Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (not a conservative group, but certainly one that CNN would respect) states that journalists should “minimize harm,” “[s]how compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage,” and “[w]eigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.”
Regardless of how troll-ish someone is being on the internet, threatening to expose their identity at some point in the future, only if they do something the media deem offensive, seems to violate this code. If CNN truly feels threatened by this Reddit user, they should report it to the police, not hand him over to an Internet mob.