When CNN threatened to reveal the identity of a Reddit user Tuesday night for making an unflattering gif about their network, it was certainly uncalled for and unprofessional. But, was it also illegal? That's what Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wondered aloud on Twitter Wednesday.
In a series of tweets, Cruz provided some key text for a Georgia state law that weighs in on the crime of theft by extortion, suggesting CNN may find itself in court.
(1/2) Troubling. I assume CNN's lawyers are examining GA § 16-8-16 Theft by extortion. If CNN constructively obtained the gif-maker's IP... https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
(2/3) "to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he...has a legal right to engage...by means of instilling...a fear...the actor will..." https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
(3/3)"Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule." https://t.co/ChxqocuDgc— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 5, 2017
The Federalist suggests that CNN may also be in trouble with Twitter.
In addition to potentially violating the law, CNN may have also violated Twitter’s terms of service, which stipulates that threats are considered “abusive behavior,” which is strictly forbidden.
“We do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice,” Twitter’s rules stipulate.
CNN denies any wrongdoing. Judging by the network's statement after Trump's WWE tweet, the producers feel justified in their actions because they feel threatened by the president. For what it's worth, the network agreed not to reveal the Reddit user's name because he/she issued what they called a sincere apology.
Legal or not, this is certainly an unprecedented step for a news network to take.