I found this alarming and ugly. CNN should publish the name or not publish the name. For CNN to tell him what he should or shouldn’t say in the future, and threaten him that they will reveal his name in the future if they don’t like his speech, does not make them sound like journalists. It makes them sound like avenging advocates, and lends substantial credibility to the argument that they pursued him because he posted a GIF about them. I don’t know what they actually intended — they’ve denied intent to threaten and claim this was only to clarify that there was no agreement. If so, that could have been conveyed much less like a threat. However they meant it, this is reasonably interpreted as a warning that the Redditor must speak only as approved by CNN or suffer for it. That’s grotesque. Legal, but grotesque.
The internet is, in human terms, very new. We still don’t have coherent shared values about how we use it. Our views on ugly internet speech and the proper response to it are particularly confused. As I’ve argued for a while, the argument “you have to shut up so I can feel safe to speak” is not coherent. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my speech but there’s something wrong with you identifying me as the speaker” is not particularly coherent. “You are silencing free speech by criticizing it” is not coherent. “This speech is insignificant but it’s wrong for you to highlight it” is not coherent. “People should be able to post graphics identifying all the Jews at CNN without anyone figuring out who they are and criticizing them by name” is not coherent. Troll visions of free speech — in which society works together harmoniously to ensure that they can post bigotry without any social consequence — is incoherent. (I also think trolls would hate that world if they got it, since their pleasure depends upon people being upset.)