Gawker Defies Judge, Refuses To Take Down Post About Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Despite Court Order
from the first-amendment,-brother dept
Gawker has been in a legal fight with Hulk Hogan, who was upset that they posted a brief clip (about 1 minute out of 30 minutes) of a sex tape involving Hogan and Heather Clem, the wife of one of Hogan’s friends. Hogan claims that he didn’t know he was being filmed at the time. His initial lawsuit, for $100 million, had a huge number of questionable claims and a federal court ruled against Hogan pretty quickly, pointing out that Gawker was protected by the First Amendment. Hogan then tried strategy two, which was suing in state court in Florida under a particular state law. Somewhat amazingly, the judge in that case has now granting an injunction against Gawker’s post, but made it so incredibly broad that it effectively demanded not just the takedown of the video, but the entire post, written by A.J. Daulerio (which was about the whole concept of celebrity sex tapes, rather than just about the Hulk Hogan video) and all of the comments on that post.
It’s unfortunate when state courts seem to go out on a limb like this, and Gawker has decided that the ruling is so ridiculous that it’s refusing to take down the post, though it did agree to take down the video clip (again, which was just a very small portion, which is why the federal judge had argued it was protected by fair use). In the Florida case, Hogan is claiming that the publication of the video was an invasion of privacy. Even if that’s true — and it seems like a stretch — to the go even further and order the entire commentary be taken down as well is extreme and clearly beyond the First Amendment. Amazingly, the judge also determined that a preliminary injunction was appropriate without even looking at the video in question!
We publish all manner of stories here. Some are serious, some are frivolous, some are dumb. I am not going to make a case that the future of the Republic rises or falls on the ability of the general public to watch a video of Hulk Hogan fucking his friend’s ex-wife. But the Constitution does unambiguously accord us the right to publish true things about public figures. And Campbell’s order requiring us to take down not only a very brief, highly edited video excerpt from a 30-minute Hulk Hogan fucking session but also a lengthy written account from someone who had watched the entirety of that fucking session, is risible and contemptuous of centuries of First Amendment jurisprudence.
In the Gawker post, they demonstrate segments from the transcript where it appears the judge is quite unfamiliar with the basic concepts of freedom of speech, and the fact that it extends beyond what someone is verbally saying out loud. For example, she expresses confusion over what “free speech” issue there even is and asks Gawker’s lawyer if it’s the “speech” between Hogan and the woman he’s having sex with, and then being confused when the lawyer points out he’s talking about the written report about it.
The injunction really does seem to go against pretty much all First Amendment case law. Furthermore, on the question of comments from others, the ruling seems to completely ignore Section 230 of the CDA as well, which clearly says Gawker is not liable for those comments. While the subject matter here may be a bit crazy, the ruling is serious… and seriously problematic for those who believe in free speech.