In what may potentially become a groundbreaking question for criminal law and litigation in the Internet Age, broadcasting behemoth CNN has targeted a private individual for making a humorous video which displeased executives, by threatening to broadcast his personal information.
Last Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted a video of himself at a mock wrestling event, a sport known for showmanship and humor. The video was retouched on a computer by an Internet jokester going by Twitter handle “HanA**holeSolo.” It depicted Trump beating up a "Mr. CNN."
After going viral, CNN executives thought it not funny, and somehow obtained “HanA**holeSolo's" real identity. After demanding an abject apology from the playful Adobe Flash user, and obtaining one, CNN said that although it might not divulge the man's identity for now, it might in the future. CNN said of the short video:
“[It’s] a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters,”
It was after this Andrew Kaczynski, a senior editor at CNN, said that CNN would not reveal the man's identity because he had properly kowtowed to CNN, saying in a written statement:
"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.”
Kaczynski then added menacingly:
“CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change,"
Some pointed out that the threat sounded like "mob" behavior, where the victim is marked by the revelation of his personal information by a boss who need not give any direct orders. Once an identity is confirmed, Internet tools make it relatively easy to determine where a person lives, and various other personal information regarding his or her family. This at a time when political passions are running extraordinarily high.
US Representative from Texas Ted Cruz immediately sprang to “HanA**holeSolo's" defense, saying in Twitter:
“Troubling. I assume CNN's lawyers are examining GA § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion. If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker's IP...it's a GA crime if they threatened to ‘Disseminate any information tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule....’”
Cruz, a lawyer, was discussing the nuances of bringing criminal charges against Kaczynski and CNN.
“HanA**holeSolo" has adopted the hashtag #CNNBlackMail to bring attention to his plight. The hashtag has gone viral. In response to CNN's threat, a video has been released doubling down on the threat, "Internet Response to CNN's Blackmail of Private Citizen #CNNBlackMail," below. The video was posted by Kim Dotcom.