There was plenty of hell raised going into Friday after it was revealed multiple news organizations – including CNN, The New York Times, Associated Press, and NBC – sued in hopes of getting information on jurors in the Paul Manafort trial. The Federalist called it “doxing” with the focus of their ire on CNN’s past behavior in covering other stories.
This isn’t the first time CNN has tried to doxx private individuals whose political views or statements offend the network. Last July, the news network threatened to identify a Reddit user who created a GIF of Trump wrestling another man with CNN’s logo superimposed on his face. CNN wrote at the time that it would reveal the individual’s identity publicly if he continued to mock the network.
In February, CNN showed up on the front lawn at the home of an elderly woman who reportedly unknowingly shared pro-Trump memes on Facebook that were created by a Russian bot factory. A reporter aggressively harangued the befuddled woman, demanding to know why she colluded with Russians to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president.
Permit me a brief aside, before we get into the definition of doxing. I watched the video clip of the “befuddled woman” and at no time did she act like she was confused or unsure why CNN was talking to her. She appeared indignant, not befuddled, at the notion she’d been used by the Russians to put Trump-supporting posts online. Of course, the Russians also organized rallies against Trump, but it has been conveniently forgotten.
Doxing (for those wondering) has to do with finding and publishing online mostly private information – like addresses or work information – about certain people. It’s typically done by hackers or the Twitter mob when they’re raging against one group or another.
News outlets have been accused of doxing – specifically when The Journal-News in New York published home addresses of all handgun owners in two counties. The articles were rightly taken down due to the controversy – and I’d agree this does meet the definition of doxing because it’s not like the handgun owners were public or semi-public figures. Of course, no one really bothered to discuss why the government should have a list of handgun owners – but I digress.
Juror information is a bit different. It’s actually Standard Operating Procedure for news outlets to sue in hopes of getting juror information. It’d be foolish for them not to ask a judge for juror contact information because they’re hoping to score exclusive interviews once verdict and sentence are rendered upon the accused.
There are plenty of examples of jurors being willing to come forward to discuss a trial and jury deliberations. Juror No. 1 in the Bill Cosby trial, O.J. Simpson juror Brenda Moran shortly after he was acquitted in famed 1995 murders, and Juror No. 3 in the Casey Anthony trial all spoke to one outlet or anothing. It is completely disingenous to suggest outlets are trying to dox by getting their information from a judge or even asking if the jury will be made availble for interviews after the trial is over.
Of course, judges aren’t required to grant the media’s court motion. Federal Judge T.S. Ellis – who is overseeing the Manafort trial – rejected the media’s suit – essentially rendering the doxing claim moot. Via Law.com:
The federal judge presiding over Paul Manafort’s trial refused to give media outlets the names of jurors Friday, saying such a move would “create a risk of harm to them.”
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia said he himself has received threats during the trial, in which he has been criticized for a tough approach toward special counsel prosecutors.
“I’ve received criticism and threats. I’d imagine they would too,” Ellis said.
“I won’t tell you the threats I’ve received,” he added, “but I’ll tell you I have the Marshals’ protection.”
Ellis’ decision, rejecting a request Ballard Spahr lawyers filed on behalf of several media organizations, came during a brief hearing Friday afternoon in an Alexandria federal courtroom. Ellis remarked that he had “no idea” about the emotions the special counsel prosecution would incite entering the trial.
Ellis is obviously not an avid reader of social media where threats and rhetoric fly through the air like pies in a food fight. It takes a real low-life to threaten someone, and his resistance towards releasing juror information makes a ton of sense. I’d probably make the same ruling were I on the bench and presiding over a high-profile political trial.
Even if Ellis had decided to release juror information to the media, there’s no guarantee it would have forced them to talk. Jurors can always say, “No,” and have done so plenty of times after trials which get a bevy of media coverage.
It’s absolutely ridiculous to think the media was trying to dox Manafort jurors by suing for their information, and those claiming it are just looking to score partisan political points. CNN, NYT, AP, and other outlets were just trying to do their jobs. Not everything is doxing – and those claiming otherwise are either ignorant or purposefully obfuscating the truth.