Wikileaks Publisher Julian Assange turned many heads when he said CNN may have broken the law by threatening to release the identity of alleged creator of the wrestling meme Trump posted unless he remains silent, yet an attorney from a prominent law news website suggests Assange may have a point.
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) July 5, 2017
Ronn Blitzer, an attorney writing for prominent legal review and news website Law Newz, had this to say:
Now, Assange could just be having some fun at CNN’s expense for beating the GIF story further into the ground—and putting themselves at the center of it, but the truth is, he has a point. Andrew Kaczynski, the author of the article, is based in New York (as per his Twitter profile), so the NY statute could apply, assuming that’s where he and CNN published the article. Taking a look at the elements of the statute itself, New York Penal Law § 135.60 says that a person is guilty of coercion in the second degree if he:
compels or induces a person to … abstain from engaging in conduct in which he or she has a legal right to engage … by means of instilling in him or her a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will … Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule
CNN is saying that they will reveal the user’s private identity, currently kept anonymous in his Reddit posts, if he doesn’t stop to post offensive material (which he is legally allowed to do). That sure sounds like it fits the bill.
If CNN really broke the law just to get even with some person who made a meme, this could lead to fireworks for the network in the future, especially as its parent company’s merger needs federal approval and CNN’s president’s head is already on the chopping block.
Congratulations, CNN. You played yourself.