CNN homepage on a monitor screen through a magnifying glass. (Shutterstock/Gil C.)
Vox senior reporter German Lopez took issue in a Wednesday article with CNN’s explanation for why it appeared to threaten the Reddit user behind the edited video of President Trump body-slamming the network’s logo.
Following internet backlash against its Tuesday report, both CNN and its reporter Andrew Kaczynski, who wrote the article on the Reddit user, emphatically denied claim there were threats of doxxing made against the pro-Trump meme maker in exchange for an apology. Furthermore, the outlet claimed it always intended to withhold the real identity of the person, who goes by the pseudonym “HanAssholeSolo.” (RELATED: CNN Draws Backlash After Threatening To ID Reddit User Behind Trump’s WWE Video)
“CNN never made any deal, of any kind, with the user. In fact, CNN included its decision to withhold the user’s identity in an effort to be completely transparent that there was no deal,” CNN told Lopez in a statement.
The paragraphs in Kaczynski’s article which drew the internet backlash and CNN claims were misinterpreted read:
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.
Many commentators, including Lopez, took that as a threat the network would reveal the identity of the Reddit user if he didn’t do what CNN wanted him to do.
And the Vox reporter did not buy the clarification from the outlet either.
“A plain reading of CNN’s article, however, contradicts what the network and Kaczynski are saying,” Lopez wrote. “If CNN really intended to withhold HanAssholeSolo’s [the name of the Reddit user] information regardless of what he did, then why didn’t the news organization say it was withholding his private information simply because he’s a private citizen? Why did it go on to add all the conditions about his behavior? And why did it say it could release the private information with an explicit condition tied to his behavior?”
The Vox writer said that instead of CNN’s menacing paragraphs, it would have been better if they had simply wrote: “CNN is not publishing ‘HanAssholeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen.” He also strongly defended the idea of not revealing the name of the Reddit user.
“He shouldn’t have his private information threatened just because the president picked up one of his Reddit shitposts, which he made with the expectation that he would be kept anonymous,” Lopez argued.
He asserted that there should be different standards between public and private figures, and private figures like HanAssholeSolo should be given “a veil of privacy, since it’s not really in the public interest to get some random person’s private information.” (RELATED: The Establishment Media’s Mission: Police The Public)
Lopez then offered skeptical liberals an alternative situation where it was a liberal internet troll who was threatened with doxxing by Fox News.
Just imagine if the situation was flipped. Someone with liberal views posts a wrestling GIF of a Democratic politician beating up a man whose head is the Fox News logo. The liberal politician then picks up this wrestling GIF, tweeting it. A background check of this Reddit user then reveals he’s made some ugly comments in the past — about conservative female politicians and journalists in particular.
Should Fox News be allowed to tell this Reddit user that they will release his private information if he doesn’t behave as Fox News wants? Should Fox really be a gatekeeper of what goes up on Reddit and other social media? Should people trust Fox News or any other media outlet with this kind of power?
My guess is many liberals wouldn’t appreciate Fox News doing this. And they shouldn’t.
Lopez then goes on to worry about the dangers of doxxing — no matter how offensive the victim has been in his online posts — for the internet mob it would draw and life ruining consequences it brings. “They would react as the internet has reacted before to these kinds of situations — with potentially thousands of hateful messages, death threats, attempts to get him fired, and harassment not just against him but also his family. Lines would quickly be crossed,” the Vox writer stated.
He concludes his article with a call for large media outlets like CNN to be better than internet lynch mobs and ensure they avoid even the hints of doxxing.
“[I]t would be nice if media organizations didn’t take part in the kind of crappy behavior that much of the internet already takes part in. CNN, Fox News, and other media organizations should not be threatening people. They should not be even hinting at doxxing people. There is enough of that out there, and media outlets should be held to a higher standard,” Lopez said.