Gawker Files For Bankruptcy, Begins Process Of Auctioning Itself Off

from the peter-thiel-gets-a-notch-in-his-belt dept

No matter what you think of Gawker, this is unfortunate news. The company has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and begun the process of auctioning off its assets. Chapter 11 is an attempt to restructure debts (which include — mostly — the ~$130 million owed to Hulk Hogan after venture capitalist Peter Thiel funded Hogan’s questionable lawsuit against Gawker). You can read the bankruptcy petition, but this is the main thing you need to know:

Yeah, that’s the beginning of the list of their 20 largest creditors and it starts with Hogan’s “disputed” $130 million… and second place is some lawyers for $115k. So we’re talking a pretty big difference from the number 1 creditor to the number 2 creditor. Of course, as with many Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings, this is more about process than substance. The filing potentially lets Gawker stop the process on some other things and explore the various alternatives, including a fairly likely sale to another player. It doesn’t mean that the company is shutting down. Update: Apparently the plan is for Ziff Davis to buy Gawker, though others could potentially get into the bidding.

Either way, this is still unfortunate. Even if you believe the Hogan case was justified (and I think you’re wrong about that), we should still be concerned when a billionaire basically sets out to destroy a media organization through a variety of lawsuits (many of which appear to be extremely questionable).

What if the next billionaire who gets upset about coverage targets a publication you do like? And don’t say that it won’t matter if that publication doesn’t do anything wrong. Just the lawsuits alone can kill a company. And, even worse, the threat of lawsuits may create a massive chilling effect on what companies publish and how they go about their reporting. And disagree with Gawker’s decisions and tactics all you want, the company did break a ton of important news stories. While this does not mean the end of Gawker, it’s certainly the crippling of Gawker, and that should be a concern for anyone who believes in a free and open press.

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Comments on “Gawker Files For Bankruptcy, Begins Process Of Auctioning Itself Off”

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146 Comments
AnonJr (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So when some billionaire funds enough lawsuits to put TechDirt in bankruptcy, because they were upset/hurt by what their coverage did to poor Prenda, you’ll also cheer about how TechDirt deserves what it got?

Gawker is many things, and they earned their reputation one horrid post at a time – but it’s this sort of mob-run pitchforks-and-torches retribution that has me worried.

Sure, this time it cut down someone few are happy to see go away … but what about next time? You know, the point Mike was trying to make?

Never mind the question of if Lifehacker or IO9 should be spared the wrath earned by Denton and those most like him.

Never mind the question of what this is signaling as “ok”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The flaw in your logic here (and the article’s) is assuming that Mr Denton’s pocketbook is the same as his free speech. He’s still able to spew his hatebile wherever he can. It’s only his pocketbook that’s being hurt. If we go along with the idea that money = speech, the Mr Thiel was only exercising his louder voice.

Ol’ Nick can always make a new website. He can even name it after himself, something like Wanker, Stalker, or Yapper.

Whatevah says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The flaw in your logic here (and the article’s) is assuming that Mr Denton’s pocketbook is the same as his free speech.”

Like other people confuse freedom of speech with freedom of movement and get all upset when someone is put in prison for spewing anti-government bile. They can shoot off their mouth, just from within a prison cell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“So when some billionaire funds enough lawsuits to put TechDirt in bankruptcy, because they were upset/hurt by what their coverage did to poor Prenda, you’ll also cheer about how TechDirt deserves what it got?

Gawker is many things, and they earned their reputation one horrid post at a time – but it’s this sort of mob-run pitchforks-and-torches retribution that has me worried.”

You see this as a problem of vigilante justice via rich assholes. Others see this as Gawker getting punished for crossing a line.

I stand on the latter, and if Techdirt posted a sex tape and filtered their commentary down to insults and commentary on the performance of the person on the tape, hell yes I’d be happy to let rich assholes drive Techdirt into the ground.

People who defend Gawker in this instance are picking a real shitty hill to defend and, potentially, die on. If you want to make a lasting point about the problem you’ve got to find a better champion than Gawker.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There is a third option. Just because the end worked out this time doesn’t mean we can’t still press on fixing the means. Gawker’s irrelevant to that point, but has accrued some national attention for the problem. It’s not defending Gawker to point out how concerning it is that Thiel could have taken down a media organization with lawsuits, and that a media organization could have gone down even if they won the case due to legal costs.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

People who defend Gawker in this instance are picking a real shitty hill to defend and, potentially, die on. If you want to make a lasting point about the problem you’ve got to find a better champion than Gawker.

You do realize that the history of defending free speech tends to involve those kinds of parties.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Party_of_America_v._Village_of_Skokie

How quickly we forget. The precedent here is what matters. And the success against Gawker will make it easier to kill publications you actually do like.

zerosaves (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

And the success against Gawker will make it easier to kill publications you actually do like.

So because Gawker loses a court case over posting a male celeb sex video recorded without consent and refusing to take it(text) down, it sets a precedent that others might sue publications like Techdirt that we all like, and also win?

How does this make sense? Does the said party having a private financial backer make Techdirt more liable to something they posted, therefore losing to such a degree it would bankrupt? It changed nothing in the case.

People have been funding lawsuits forever, just because one finally won over a legitimate claim and got a large sum does not change anything.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

So because Gawker loses a court case over posting a male celeb sex video recorded without consent and refusing to take it(text) down, it sets a precedent that others might sue publications like Techdirt that we all like, and also win?

How does this make sense? Does the said party having a private financial backer make Techdirt more liable to something they posted, therefore losing to such a degree it would bankrupt? It changed nothing in the case.

There are two issues as I see it here, both of which are dangerous for a publication like Techdirt.

1. Thiel’s overall plan — basically full time fund an entire law firm SOLELY to hunt for and support any lawsuit that might be brought against a company for the sole purpose of killing that company. That goes beyond just funding a lawsuit. That’s the part I find scary.

2. The ruling itself in this case hinged on a JURY far away deciding “what’s newsworthy.” The First Amendment’s protections of the freedom of the press should not allow juries to make decisions based on THEIR belief of “what’s newsworthy.” That’s an editorial decision that the publication can make. As soon as a jury is in that business you create massive chilling effects on newsrooms.

AnonJr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sigh

If it was just Hogan vs Gawker, I might go along with you. The problem is that this is signaling – if you have the money and can rustle up a mob then it’s perfectly ok to go all scorched earth against a publication.

Will it still be ok if Rush Limbaugh funds every lawsuit he can stir up against the NY Times until they declare bankruptcy?

Would it still be ok if Duffy funds (well … assuming he could) every lawsuit he could stir up against TechDirt and/or Popehat?

zerosaves (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh

No, you are way off point here. Theil did not go around filing lawsuits to bankrupt the company, Theil found a PERFECTLY VALID lawsuit and came in to help fund it. I say perfectly valid because of the verdict. Theil had ZERO to do with the verdict the jury came to, the verdict came down on the claims made, they sided with Hogan. Not because he was funded by someone with money, but because they felt he was right. If Theil went and filed 50 lawsuits over stupid things that he knew would fail but would bankrupt them trying to defend/get them tossed, that would be an entirely different thing. Theil did not start this lawsuit.

I don’t know why so many people, including the Techdirt writers, are missing this point.

There is nothing shady or illegal in getting help funding your lawsuit. Most of us in the real world would never be able to pay for a lawsuit against a giant media company. If you lawsuit has merit, it doesn’t matter who is paying for it.

Daniel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh

You do realize this isn’t just one lawsuit, Theil had his lawyers go out and find people with viable claims against the company and offered to take their case against Gawker with Theil funding everything. So in a way, he did go around filing lawsuits to bankrupt the company. He’s even said as much in interviews. So while there may not be anything illegal, though I would still lay money on RICO violations, it is definitely shady/questionable.

Deimal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sigh

Why is it any different than the ACLU/EFF/FIRE giving support to lawsuits? Or any other organization supporting an individual that doesn’t have the financial resources to seek damages or recompense?

Yea, Thiel had a beef with Gawker, no doubt. All he did though was fund lawsuits he though had merit and could win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Sigh

Why is it any different than the ACLU/EFF/FIRE giving support to lawsuits?

Those organisations act in view of the public, raise money to support a published agenda, and act to preserve the public’s rights, even if they disagree with the views of the person they are supporting, versus going around in secret to find as many opportunities as possible to bring cases against a single company. That is the difference between acting ion the public interest (as they see it), and acting to carry out a vendetta against a singe person or company.

AnonJr (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh

I’ll meet you part way – even most of the way – because you do have a point that has been somewhat lost in this.

You’re right in that there’s nothing wrong with getting help funding a lawsuit. There have been many instances (even celebrated here) where the EFF has been able to help or where the Popehat signal goes out and some pro-bono help has been offered – all because the individual couldn’t afford their due day in court.

You’re also right in that a legal complaint was lodged by Hogan, due process was followed, and the end verdict was in Hogan’s favor. Money is due Hogan from Gawker as a result, pending all the fun with appeals etc. Theil himself had nothing to do with the jury’s verdict – it was all the lawyers, the arguments, and maybe even evidence. (that last part was indented to be be somewhat sarcastic for the sarcasm-impaired)

If Hogan needed help funding his efforts to seek legal recourse over a complaint, then he certainly wasn’t wrong to accept said help.

We can quibble over the validity of Hogan’s complaint, and if what Gawker did could be construed as an act of journalism of the lowest order (mistyped that as “oder”… almost left it like that). There’s certainly enough weirdness in other aspects of this specific case to muddy the waters.

Where this comes back to for me – and where we may just have to agree to disagree – is not with Hogan, his suit, or the merits of one side or another. The main issue for me is with Theil and his behaviour.

I have not seen anywhere where Hogan sought help because he couldn’t afford his due legal recourse. (Though I’m open to evidence that that was the case) I have seen where Theil has gone out of his way to find people with a beef with Gawker and support them – not because their case was good or their cause just, but because they had a beef with Gawker good enough to drag them into court.

It’s the ruin-by-proxy and the precedent that it sets that has me concerned.

Starke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sigh

There was also a suspicion that there were improprieties regarding Hogan and his friend who created the tape. Hogan sued him, then they immediately settled, before Hogan turned around and sued Gawker.

It’d difficult to prove, but it almost looks like the tape was specifically created to be passed to Gawker, allowing for the lawsuit in the first place.

zerosaves (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Sigh

I have seen where Theil has gone out of his way to find people with a beef with Gawker and support them – not because their case was good or their cause just, but because they had a beef with Gawker good enough to drag them into court.

I guess that is just where we differ. I see no problem in this. I see this as a way for him to help fight a company who he views as hurting people. No different than the wealthy leftist backers of environmental organizations, they use lawsuits as weapons all the time.

I just don’t agree with the “chilling effect” on journalism. Its all within context. Some billionaire could fund every Joe Nobody’s lawsuit, unless there is merit to the claims, they won’t go anywhere, certainly not bankrupt levels. You don’t win $140m from no where. These are the same guys who berated everyone for the female celeb leak postings, fighting tooth and nail ignoring court orders to keep up a male celeb video. idiots. Its utter garbage. How people are equating this to “imagine if” the New York Times being sued is beyond me. CONTEXT.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Sigh

If you don’t believe money can trump merit in the court system, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

That’s the elephant in the room here. The fact that justice is for sale is the big underlying problem here. If someone is wronged, they shouldn’t need lots of money to have their day in court. Conversely, once they get to court, having lots of money to spend shouldn’t influence the outcome.

The best justice money can buy isn’t justice.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh

“Theil did not go around filing lawsuits to bankrupt the company…”

Actually that’s exactly what he did. Have you missed all the stories discussing this? You seem to be terribly ignorant about this whole story here, which is possibly why the entire point of this article has gone right over your head.

“I don’t know why so many people, including the Techdirt writers, are missing this point. “

That’s not something you should be accusing other of…

jufnitz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sigh

This isn’t the government going after Gawker.

Of course it is. If tomorrow at noon the government was abolished, and at 12:01 Hulk Hogan went up to Gawker and said “so about that $130 million…” Gawker would laugh at him. The problem is that a great enough socioeconomic disparity between two litigants allows the wealthier and more powerful litigant to assume effective control over the legal system, pushing verdicts that serve their interests and stalling those that don’t, and any outcome is enforced by the government’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. One could just as well blame the existence of a de facto police state in Ferguson, MO on citizens’ not assuming responsibility for paying their parking tickets.

Deimal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh

It’s a civil lawsuit, not a criminal action. Chapter 11 effectively protects them from having to pony up the required amount for the escrow while they await appeal. Considering Gawker’s actions in court, some of the things they said in deposition and on the stand seriously had a big impact on how the judge and the jury viewed them. They presented themselves as extremely unlikable and I’m sure to some at least amoral.

That may not matter from a freedom of the press standpoint, but once they got in front of a judge and a jury, a little humility would have gone a long long way.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sigh

There are no free speech concerns here. This isn’t the government going after Gawker. Gawker is (relatively) free to publish whatever it likes. However, along with the freedom to publish what it likes it must also accept responsibility, liability in this case, for what it publishes.

This is, uh, wrong. If you’re involved the court to silence a company then, yes, the gov’t is involved, and First Amendment absolutely applies. It’s why the appeals court in this case ALREADY tossed out the original injunction on First Amendment grounds.

JohnG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Sigh

This is, uh, wrong. If you’re involved the court to silence a company then, yes, the gov’t is involved, and First Amendment absolutely applies

FCOL how many times have I read on this very site that Free Speech protections under the 1st Amendment apply to protecting individuals from government actions and not from other individuals? Countless!

And for the 3rd or 4th time in this very thread I NEVER SAID the government wasn’t involved. I don’t know why so many people are reading things that I didn’t write. I said the government wasn’t going after Gawker, as in the lawsuit wasn’t filed by the US Atty. Certainly the government will enforce the court’s decision but that’s entirely different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh

FCOL how many times have I read on this very site that Free Speech protections under the 1st Amendment apply to protecting individuals from government actions and not from other individuals? Countless!

Read what you just wrote. “Government actions” are still government actions even if not originally initiated by the government. Hogan went to the government for help, and the government gave it to him, in violation of the first amendment. Saying “hey, he asked us to do it!” doesn’t excuse the government.

Certainly the government will enforce the court’s decision but that’s entirely different.

No, that’s entirely why the first amendment comes into play.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sigh

I said the government wasn’t going after Gawker, as in the lawsuit wasn’t filed by the US Atty. Certainly the government will enforce the court’s decision but that’s entirely different.

The First Amendment kicks in whenever any state actor is involved. In this case, the “state actor” is the court system.

So, yeah, there are definitely free speech concerns here.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Sigh

I suppose the real takeaway here is that people are well and truly fed up with propaganda and sensationalism polluting news outlets. This has been going on for at least a couple decades now, ever since Fox News started taking advantage of the industry’s deregulation, and because functional news and journalism is like a country’s nervous system, we’ve seen the entire nation become paralyzed as a result. Now people just want these poisons expelled and they’ll worry about the rest later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sigh

I’m of the mind that this talk about “billionaire backing” is irrelevant to the case at hand.

Either the lawsuit was valid, or it was not.

If it was valid, then it should be brought to court. The existence of a financial backer only shows that there is a massive financial barrier for filing valid lawsuits against corporations.

If it was invalid, then it should’ve been thrown out before it got far enough for a billionaire backer to matter, and only shows that the court system is too lenient towards allowing frivolous lawsuits.

Really, this isn’t any different than the EFF providing legal support to people, or something. The lawsuit only goes forward because someone’s helping, but the case is still decided on its merits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sigh

“Good to see our first to comments missed the point of the post entirely. If you allow the weaponizing of funded lawsuits like this in order to kill off one publication (that you may not like), you allow it to be used against ALL publications. Given the Free Speech concerns at issue, that’s a massive problem….”

Weaponized lawsuits HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ALLOWED. There is no “allow” it to be used elsewhere. It can already be used anywhere, and likely has if you go digging. If anything, they’re more restrictive and harder than they have been in the past, so you should be happy we’re making progress.

There are even defenses against “weaponized lawsuits”, but you have to be able to win a lawsuit first. That is Gawker’s failing here, and saying that somehow the justice system is broken or the sky is falling over this lawsuit is just ignorant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Theil

“Outting someone publicly, against their will, hardly falls into the same catagory and doesn’t benefit anyone but the sleazy tabloid that did it.”

New rule: News cannot be published without the permission of everyone involved. That should meet your objections.

By the way, did you get Gawker’s permission prior to posting your comments about them? Of course you did. You’re no hypocrite, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Gawker deserved what it got. They crossed the line when it comes to respectable journalism. It says a lot when other media organizations wouldn’t run with those videos that Gawker had posted online.

I have absolutely no sympathy for Gawker and this should serve as a reminder to scandalous media organizations: take a stand for responsible, moral and ethical journalism or face the consequences.

RIP Gawker, may we never see your face again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think the problem is that you think Gawker is journalism rather than entertainment and pop culture commentary. If you went there (or to Fox News for that matter) for factual, unbiased, “fair and balanced” reporting, you were looking at the wrong website.

It’s like saying, “I’m glad the Nazis were defeated in World War II because they made terrible bologna sandwiches!”

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

The whole point about journalism is that it doesn’t require your respect. Or anyone else’s.

I’ve also noticed “journalism” is now more and more becoming a synonym for anyone who has an opinion of any kind. Just replace the word “Gawker” in your comment with the word “Deepthroat” and you’ve got every single Nixon lover (yes, they still do exist) an excuse to crush every single paper’s reporting of the corruption on the grounds they don’t “respect” it. Further still, replace it with the word “Daily Mail”, “Guardian”, etc.

People here are not going to respect your comment. Should you shut up? No.

And though I think the jury were in the right to award Hogan damages, I can still say all of the above without hesitation.

Contrary to what a lot of folk have been saying on Twitter, Orwell did not in fact say “journalism is printing what someone else does not want to hear, everything else is PR”. Though the sentiment is true enough (just don’t follow it up with screams of “BIAS!” and then demand the sacking of X number of TV reporters from the BBC and ITV, as these fools from where I am in the UK were doing. The shit-for-brain fuckers had no idea how profane they were being when they were doing that).

GMacGuffin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I could care less what happens to the main Gawker site, but the have a lot of related sites under their umbrella that I love; Kotaku, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Deadspin, and io9.

This is the part where the “they got what they deserve because I don’t like them” folks exhibit cognitive dissonance. I have never read Gawker at all, but Gizmodo, and especially io9 are regular reading for me.

Did io9, a fun, harmless, goofy, often educational science/sci-fi/entertainment site also get what it deserved?

Anonymous Coward says:

I keep trying to figure out a way to explain why you are wrong Mike, and I think I’ve figured it out.

If, for example, some anonymous troll and uploaded this video to a torrent or file sharing site and then say tipped Gawker off, then Gawker could have reported on this as news without repercussion.

That’s not what happened though, Gawker themselves uploaded the video and then tried to pretend that, oh, we’re merely reporting the news. But that’s not the way it works, they created the news.

Let’s consider this more abstractly. Two individuals engage in a consensual sex act and the act is recorded. Later, the video is uploaded to the internet without the consent of one or both parties. Does this sound familiar? It should, this is essentially what revenge porn is.

Now, back to the case. This is not a criminal case, it’s a civil case. If someone else had upload the video then Gawker’s defense of “we’re reporting the news” would have protected them regardless of how detestable the story was. If that had been the case then Hogan could have tried to find out the identity of the person(s) who were responsible for uploading the video and sued them. But again, this isn’t what happened. Gawker uploaded the video and and took full ownership of that fact and then tried to make out that they were somehow reporting the news.

Hogan won because Gawker was directly responsible for each step of this farce.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

All Mike hears whenever someone points this out is “bla bla bla government apologist”. He’s deaf to any suggestion that media companies can be bad guys that exploit, harass, and propagandize against private citizens and that citizens without sufficient means to obtain recourse find themselves unable to receive justice. This time the well-funded criminal operation went up against someone able to avail himself of the assistance of a deep-pocketed benefactor and prevailed against the corporate millions of Gawker. Eat shit, Denton, and get a clue, Mike.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

All Mike hears whenever someone points this out is “bla bla bla government apologist”. He’s deaf to any suggestion that media companies can be bad guys that exploit, harass, and propagandize against private citizens and that citizens without sufficient means to obtain recourse find themselves unable to receive justice. This time the well-funded criminal operation went up against someone able to avail himself of the assistance of a deep-pocketed benefactor and prevailed against the corporate millions of Gawker. Eat shit, Denton, and get a clue, Mike.

If you think this is true, you’re really, really wrong.

I absolutely recognize that media companies can, and quite frequently are, terrible. We call them out all the time.

But I also recognize the right to a free press and how important that is. Do you disagree?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My question is, if you can explain it for me, what separates what happened here (Gawker taking the defense that they’re only reporting) from blackmail in which you ‘other’ the source? Like in the case where the FBI went through their TOR investigations using a third party to do the dirty work?

I’m not sure if I made enough sense to represent where I’m coming from properly, but I guess the short of it is why would you say it’s OK for Gawker to take an “it wasn’t us, we’re just utilizing it” from the FBI’s “it wasn’t us, we’re just utilizing it”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

My personal take is that the difference is that the FBI is part of government. They are inherently a law enforcement agency. The FBI wouldn’t using third party organizations to do dirty work and then tell the public about it, they’d be using it to directly prosecute citizens. We have specific laws saying what they can do and what they can’t do, and we shouldn’t let them route around those laws.

For the same reason, Gawker isn’t a government agency. It has power in the social consciousness but it can’t directly impose prosecutions. I don’t agree with what Gawker has done, but we have the First Ammendment saying they should be able to do it, in the same way we have laws saying the FBI cannot.

That’s the major difference from my point of view, it’s the government agency and the point of it. While the end result in many cases can be the same, it’s the power difference that matters. Gawker can ruin lives just as easily as the FBI can, but the FBI has the power of government law behind them which is why they are held to a higher standard.

As others have said, despicable cases like this require MORE defense of free speech, not less, or we risk eroding away more of the First Amendment.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

My question is, if you can explain it for me, what separates what happened here (Gawker taking the defense that they’re only reporting) from blackmail in which you ‘other’ the source? Like in the case where the FBI went through their TOR investigations using a third party to do the dirty work?

I’m not sure if I made enough sense to represent where I’m coming from properly, but I guess the short of it is why would you say it’s OK for Gawker to take an “it wasn’t us, we’re just utilizing it” from the FBI’s “it wasn’t us, we’re just utilizing it”?

The short answer is that it’s the First and Fourth Amendments together. Both of them say what the government cannot do. They cannot interfere with the freedom of the press, and that includes the decisions of what’s “newsworthy.” And, separately, they cannot dig into your private info without a warrant supported by probable cause.

So the government cannot stop a publisher from publishing something… and the government cannot snoop through private data without a warrant. The FBI is the government. Gawker is part of the press.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Thiel’s overall plan — basically full time fund an entire law firm SOLELY to hunt for and support any lawsuit that might be brought against a company for the sole purpose of killing that company. That goes beyond just funding a lawsuit. That’s the part I find scary.

Now please explain to me how that differs from the ACLU hunting for any lawsuit that might challenge Intelligent Design and then bankrolling the lawyers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Let’s see. The Earth and all it’s lifeforms were literally created in a matter of days because the Bible says so. Check. The Earth literally has four corners because the Bible says so. Check. Death by mob stoning is justice because the Bible says so. Check. There are proper ways to do slavery because the Bible says so. Check. Thiel targeting a particular organization for his personal pleasure is the same as the ACLU challenging some of the above ideas (regardless of source) for the public good. Check.

Seems pretty consistent to me.

jameshogg says:

Re: Re:

It should be noted that when an injunction had been put on Gawker to take down the video, they did, but then merely linked to another video site hosting it instead.

If the logic stands, surely that video site must have been sued by Hogan too. But it wasn’t. In other words Gawker have got the “leaker” role here and that is why they must bear the legal burden, not the folk echoing what was leaked e.g. the video site.

If Gawker had a source who provided them with the tape, they could have said they weren’t the leaker but merely the echo. Though that would mean having to defend the identity of the source against a possible legal demand to reveal it. None of that happened. It could have also been possible that Gawker were actually the folk who got a hold of the tape without a middleman, considering how they didn’t even attempt to pass the buck.

It needs reminding that the hackers of the iCloud celebrity photos were rightfully punished, though folk reposting them on Reddit were not. I don’t think a free expression claim is warranted when hackers were trespassing onto property like that. Given the unexplained nature of how Gawker came into possession of that tape (they may have indeed trespassed Hogan’s property to get it themselves for all we know), the judgement for damages was probably justified.

Though it sucks. Every instinct in me tells me that gutter press is the FIRST area to defend against censorship precisely because of the huge hate it generates. Hate is fine, gutter press gonna gutter. Censorship is not. If I can defend the rights of Holocaust deniers to speak their minds, and I do justly, I can certainly defend it for sharticles these tabloids put out.

A person who deeply, deeply offends everyone on the internet requires EXTRA protection for free expression, not less. Because it still benefits us. If it is true that knowledge is power, then knowledge of what is false is just as liberating as knowledge of what is true. Every time you hear disgusting, revolting opinions the more you know how low humanity can sink. It’s important, otherwise you won’t know what to do when confronted with lynch mobs of racist hate peddlers marching on the doors of a minority because you weren’t given the space to get angry about the bile building up beforehand. Know thy enemy. You can’t do that if you shut them up. Beautiful flowers cannot live without being dependent on pollen-carrying stinging pests.

Here, an anus-inverted tabloid has self-destructed in a manner similar to News of the World here in the U.K., preventing us the right to know about how nasty and cold-hearted an opinion can be. A man has also been the victim of revenge porn but walked away with, what he’d consider, not enough compensation. A billionaire Silicon Valley tycoon walks away with a smile on his face knowing that folk who are nowhere near as rich as him will never have the same kind of financially-backed justice if they ever end up as revenge-porn victims, who he probably couldn’t care less about – he will continue to be rich and not stand by his supposed principles, on the basis that revenge can solve anything.

Nobody wins, to be honest.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I keep trying to figure out a way to explain why you are wrong Mike, and I think I’ve figured it out.

I appreciate your willingness to engage in discussion — rather than most of the other people who are just like “Gawker bad, so this good.”

I still disagree though. 🙂

If, for example, some anonymous troll and uploaded this video to a torrent or file sharing site and then say tipped Gawker off, then Gawker could have reported on this as news without repercussion.

Ok. I’m not sure that’s true, but I’ll grant you the premise to start.

Let’s consider this more abstractly. Two individuals engage in a consensual sex act and the act is recorded. Later, the video is uploaded to the internet without the consent of one or both parties. Does this sound familiar? It should, this is essentially what revenge porn is.

Still with you.

Now, back to the case. This is not a criminal case, it’s a civil case. If someone else had upload the video then Gawker’s defense of “we’re reporting the news” would have protected them regardless of how detestable the story was. If that had been the case then Hogan could have tried to find out the identity of the person(s) who were responsible for uploading the video and sued them. But again, this isn’t what happened. Gawker uploaded the video and and took full ownership of that fact and then tried to make out that they were somehow reporting the news.

Here’s where I lose you and let me explain why. I’m with you on the idea that there should be some legal liability for whoever TOOK the video without permission. I think there’s a privacy violation inherent there. But once that person passed it on to Gawker, Gawker should not be the liable party.

Let me give a different analogy: Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the NY Times. That leak was illegal. But once the NY Times had the papers, they COULD and DID publish them for the public to see. The person who breaks the law may be the original leaker/videographer/whatever. But the PUBLICATION is a different issue, and once you get into regulating what someone can or cannot publish, you have a big First Amendment issue on your hands. That’s the case here.

We get documents, and even audio and video, sent to us all the time. We have every right under the First Amendment to publish ANY OF IT. If someone got that information illegally, that does not change that fact. It may mean legal liability FOR THEM, but not for the publisher. That’s how the First Amendment works.

Hogan won because Gawker was directly responsible for each step of this farce.

That’s not true. It did not film. It did not leak the film. It merely published an edited version of the film. That’s the key difference.

And, as noted, Gawker will almost certainly win on appeal, as the appeals court has ALREADY tossed out an earlier ruling in this case on First Amendment grounds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

what if hogan leaked it to put himself back in the spotlight over this whole mess? How else would something like this be removed without him knowing about it and uploaded. had to be someone involved in the making of said tape imo.

I doubt the person behind funding hogan’s lawsuit would have cared if it was a setup for gawker to begin with. Considering how much they hate gawker.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is two things Gawker could have done to avoid getting sued.

1: Just post the still images as was suggested
2: Not leak out key lines in the tape that ruined Hogan’s career.

Those two things would have kept the lawsuit from happening.

Pretty simple.

Oh, and ignoring a judge’s order to take down the video, that was pretty bad, especially when they put up a headline that went “Judge Orders us to take down the sex tape, but we won’t”

You DON’T thumb your nose at the Judicial Branch of the government like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ok, same AC here.

Here’s where I lose you and let me explain why. I’m with you on the idea that there should be some legal liability for whoever TOOK the video without permission. I think there’s a privacy violation inherent there. But once that person passed it on to Gawker, Gawker should not be the liable party.

This is a very good point and one that had not occurred to me. Your comparison to Daniel Ellsberg is particularly apt and could be extended to any number of other whistle-blowers in recent years.

I see where you’re going. If we don’t want media outlets to bear legal liability for leaker’s and whistle-blowers then logically even in cases where the newsworthiness is questionable or there is a potentially legitimate privacy violation we still have to protect them from legal liability.

Alright, you’ve won me over. Even though Gawkers actions can still easily be argued as unethical and amoral, this is nevertheless the old defend even the speech that we don’t like.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is two things Gawker could have done to avoid getting sued.

1: Just post the still images as was suggested
2: Not leak out key lines in the tape that ruined Hogan’s career.

Those two things would have kept the lawsuit from happening.

Personally, I agree. But now you’re making editorial judgments for someone else’s publication. And that’s not how it works. The First Amendment means they get to make their own editorial decisions.

Oh, and ignoring a judge’s order to take down the video, that was pretty bad, especially when they put up a headline that went “Judge Orders us to take down the sex tape, but we won’t”

You do realize that that order got tossed out on First Amendment grounds, right? In other words: an appeals court has already said that Gawker was right here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“If someone got that information illegally, that does not change that fact. It may mean legal liability FOR THEM, but not for the publisher.”

Just like if you are in possession of stolen goods.

Do you have a problem with being given a million dollars to shut up for a year? Seems to me you don’t have a problem with money being used to stifle speech. So long as you are the one getting the money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If, for example, some anonymous troll and uploaded this video to a torrent or file sharing site and then say tipped Gawker off, then Gawker could have reported on this as news without repercussion.

No, videos do not have to be uploaded to “a torrent or file sharing site” in order to be news. I don’t know where you got this idea, but it is wrong.

Does this sound familiar? It should, this is essentially what revenge porn is.

If you have a source that confirms that Gawker attempted to blackmail Hogan, then please share it. If you are just making stuff up, then please stop it.

Hogan won because Gawker was directly responsible for each step of this farce.

If you have a source that confirms that Gawker was directly responsible for creating the video, not just reporting on it, then please share it. Other wise, I’m getting tired of being polite and am saying that you’re full of shit.

YourBecomingPartoftheProblem says:

Mike It's Not About Thiel

Mike please… enough with – this – approach to keeping journalism alive. I can respect the focus on speech, journalism – even crappy journalism that on occasion stumbles onto real stories… but the verdict is just that – a legal outcome of a trial.

You and other media sites and companies keep pushing the narrative that someone with money that sought to bring down a media site out of revenge are some how to blame and ignore the realities that Gawker screwed up, got called on it, went to trial and lost in a big way – that should be the story.

A sidebar story might be about how money can impact media, in this case, it’s about Gawker invading someone’s very very personal life and activities, publishing those details in graphic detail and doing harm to an individual.

I’m disappointed that you’re ignoring the substance of the case which your site does such good work focusing on aka privacy. I would have expected you to be on the side of privacy protections, not standing in line and very much in tune with what from the outside looks like a concerted effort to discredit an individual for the sake of media’s rights – which in this case is Gawker which lost in court because they violated an individual’s rights.

My head is shaking in astonishment over your coverage of this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Yeah, it’s about Theil. He’s been at the forefront of the collapse of privacy through his work with Palantir, FB, & PayPal. You think Palantir couldn’t determine if Peter and his friends were gay? How would that happen, if Peter didn’t tell them? Your life isn’t private because of the actions of Theil. Tell me who I can sue as a specific deterrence to prevent my life, my actions, my behavior from being commoditized and sold? Gawker posted a leaked video and made one man miserable. Theil creates a system that destroys all of our privacy and you think Gawker’s the monster.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Mike please… enough with – this – approach to keeping journalism alive. I can respect the focus on speech, journalism – even crappy journalism that on occasion stumbles onto real stories… but the verdict is just that – a legal outcome of a trial.

At the first level with a judge who is the most reversed judge around, and has already had her initial ruling against Gawker overturned on First Amendment grounds AND who spoke out about how she dislikes Gawker’s style of journalism AND who blocked Gawker from presenting a bunch of evidence at the trial. So, yeah. There’s a lot more to this case.

But, you’re right that the Thiel issue is separate, but I still think it’s an issue. Because Gawker offered to settle the case on terms that were completely reasonable and that anyone else would have taken ($10 million). But because of Thiel’s funding, that was rejected and the case went forward. In other words, with Thiel’s funding this no longer was about coming to a reasonable outcome, but about killing Gawker. Add into that the simple fact that Thiel has admitted to backing more than just this case, and then looking at the other cases against Gawker (all of which are completely nutty) and this is very much about Thiel looking to kill a publication.

I’m disappointed that you’re ignoring the substance of the case which your site does such good work focusing on aka privacy. I would have expected you to be on the side of privacy protections, not standing in line and very much in tune with what from the outside looks like a concerted effort to discredit an individual for the sake of media’s rights – which in this case is Gawker which lost in court because they violated an individual’s rights.

I wrote quite a lot about the specifics of the case when the verdict came out. If there are any privacy issues, they’re between whoever took the video and who was in it — and there may be liability there. But that liability should not extend to a publication.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Mike, I know you’re worried about the fact that Gawker got sued out of existence, but lemme say this…

You don’t have anything to worry about.

1: Gawker didn’t just report on the fact that Hogan had sex with his neighbor/friend’s wife, they uploaded the sex vid and ignored it when the Judge said to take it down (they did later, but had it on a different hosting site then linked to it). Had they just gone and reported on it, this wouldn’t be a problem.

If you were into celebrity gossip, which you’re not, and all you do is report on stuff and not link to things like what Gawker did, then you’re just reporting on what you’ve heard/seen.

2: Hogan said the N-word in some sort of privately recorded tape. Somehow that got out to the public and Hogan lost his job.

Gee, I wonder who could have had it.

You and other sites that only report on news have nothing to worry about from this court case.

Tabloid businesses that don’t do journalism, that go out to intentionally destroy people’s careers and cause emotional harm…

Do they really deserve to be around?

After all, Matt Taylor landed a rocket on a comet and all he’ll ever be remembered for is that shirt he wore.

Just do actual journalism, Mike. That’s all you and others have to do.

Gawker has, in its history, intentionally gone after people to destroy their careers, their reputations and their lives while laughing about it, they don’t care one bit.

BTW, did Thiel pay off the jury to get the verdict or did he just fund the lawsuit?

If he did the former, then, yeah, it’s an assault on free speech.

If all he did was the latter, well, that’s perfectly acceptable.

Or are you against the ACLU and other organizations doing the same thing for others?

Yes, I know, they do it for different reasons.

But, that’s all. I mean, it’s not like Gawker would ever stoop to going after random people and force said people to self-censor what they would post to facebook or twitter because they’d have to worry if Gawker would use what they say to ruin their lives, careers and reputation, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Tabloid businesses that don’t do journalism, that go out to intentionally destroy people’s careers and cause emotional harm…

Do they really deserve to be around?

This is the part Mike and others are worried about. Despicable speech should be protected MORE than speech we like or we risk chipping away at the First Amendment. We don’t get to pick and choose, either speech is protected or it isn’t.

Once you start opening the doors to saying “oh, this isn’t journalism” then you start setting precedent to cut away at less and less “offensive” journalism.

I think the situation has the potential to be worrying, regardless of the fact that we all agree Gawker sucks.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Lemme ask you something though, Mike…

I know you’re a huge advocate of privacy, you’ve done PLENTY of rants about smart phones should be under the protection of the 4th Amendment before.

I know you’re also a huge advocate of the 1st Amendment, as seen here where you’re worried that it will get eroded from this.

Is Hogan’s right to privacy and freedom of speech, both the sex video and what he said on the tape, and by proxy everyone’s right to privacy and freedom of speech, less important than the media reporting on it or dragging it through the mud?

Because, what’s to stop the next Gawker from getting private recordings in a person’s private home, putting that information out there and ruining a person’s life?

I dunno about you, but that’s far more terrifying than what Gawker’s going through right now.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Mike It's Not About Thiel


Is Hogan’s right to privacy and freedom of speech, both the sex video and what he said on the tape, and by proxy everyone’s right to privacy and freedom of speech, less important than the media reporting on it or dragging it through the mud?

Both the 1st and 4th Amendments are incredibly important — but they also both apply solely to gov’t actions.

Gawker posting stuff about Hogan has no bearing on the 4th Amendment at all. The press has an unalienable right to publish whatever they want. That doesn’t mean that they’re not free from consequences — but those consequences cannot be from the government, but rather from private actors. Thus, everyone is free to find Gawker despicable for its actions — and maybe advertisers and traffic can go away from the site for those reasons.

But the 4th Amendment is NOT a “everyone gets to hide stuff they want hidden.”

I find it surprising, above, that you think there’s some harm in publishing Hogan’s racist comments, because he lost his job over it. Do you think the press shouldn’t be allowed to post someone’s comments? What about the press publishing the secretly recorded comments from Mitt Romney about “the 47%”?

Because, what’s to stop the next Gawker from getting private recordings in a person’s private home, putting that information out there and ruining a person’s life?

As I said above, I still think that there’s a legitimate tort in whoever filmed the stuff violating the person’s privacy. But NOT to the publication that publishes a story with it. So your hypothetical doesn’t apply here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Mike It's Not About Thiel

“That doesn’t mean that they’re not free from consequences — but those consequences cannot be from the government, but rather from private actors.”

Exactly! I don’t even know why we employ police. An eye for an eye.

Also, if case would have been settled for $10 000 000, but a private actor came in and said do this instead…

What do you recommend to do if physically assaulted? Is it ok to use gov. for these consequences? Do physical wounds heal faster/easier than emotional wounds? Do people commit suicide because they were physically beat up the way they commit suicide when they are emotionally beat up?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Mike It's Not About Thiel

What do you recommend to do if physically assaulted? Is it ok to use gov. for these consequences? Do physical wounds heal faster/easier than emotional wounds? Do people commit suicide because they were physically beat up the way they commit suicide when they are emotionally beat up?

Your comment hurt my feelings. I demand the death penalty.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 An eye for an eye...

An eye for an eye would be enforced by police.

If you’re thinking of the natural order (big guys have their way with little guys) then yeah, that doesn’t require law enforcement.

Physical assault and battery are covered by law and enforcement. Part of the responsibility of the state is to hold a monopoly on the use of force. (Not that the United States does this very responsibly.)

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Mike It's Not About Thiel

Exactly! I don’t even know why we employ police. An eye for an eye.

You are misrepresenting what I am saying. I did not say there’s no need for police. I said — and the Constitution supports — that there is no allowance for government interference in speech. That has nothing to do with the things police do.

What do you recommend to do if physically assaulted? Is it ok to use gov. for these consequences?

Of course. That’s not speech.

Do physical wounds heal faster/easier than emotional wounds?

I’m not sure what your point is, but I do know what the Constitution says.

Do people commit suicide because they were physically beat up the way they commit suicide when they are emotionally beat up?

I think people commit suicide for a variety of reasons that they only know. I see little point is theorizing based on that. But as I’ve said before (see comments on the Lori Drew case), I would have SERIOUS problems (as would the Constitution) in any law that allowed the courts to go after someone for “bullying” because someone committed suicide. Think about that for a second. You’d be creating a legal consequence for person A because of an action taken by person B. You’d actually be ENCOURAGING suicides by letting people know that a great way to get back at some asshole is to kill yourself.

Anyway, no one denies that speech has consequences and that people can be emotionally scarred. But we don’t allow the courts to get involved in those situations — and for good reason. Personally, I find your comment so ridiculous that it makes me sick. Would you be okay if I could sue you for the nausea you produced in me for being so stupid?

We run into serious problems when we create laws based on feelz.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Mike It's Not About Thiel

I have nothing to do with your stupidity making you nausea’s, but from what I have seen, there is nothing stopping you from going ahead with that. Good luck!

If money is speech, why are you against this guy talking?

If money is speech, the government is involved. Fiat money is money backed by the government. The government is behind Mr. Thiels’ speech.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Mike It's Not About Thiel

I have nothing to do with your stupidity making you nausea’s, but from what I have seen, there is nothing stopping you from going ahead with that. Good luck!

Whooosh. That one went right over your head.

If money is speech, why are you against this guy talking?

I don’t think you understand what that phrase means.

If money is speech, the government is involved. Fiat money is money backed by the government. The government is behind Mr. Thiels’ speech.

That’s not how this works.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Mike It's Not About Thiel

“The court’s main rationale is that limits on using corporate treasuries for campaigns are a “classic example of censorship,” as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.”

“Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is the process of making uniform decisions applying to all members of a group. It also involves the use of power by one person to affect the behavior of another person.

Thiel was apparently on a campaign. A political campaign.Do you think he should have a limit as to how much he can spend on commercials and advertisements? Or can he bankrupt himself doing so?

Why doesn’t Gawker counter-sue Thiel, or the law firm Thiel hired, for abusive litigation? Other media orgs can help fund the lawyer fees. At what point do you want to censor the media orgs? $20 each? $200 000 each? Or do you want to censor the overall pool?

You don’t like the way Thiel expressed himself? We need to stand up for those rights too!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Because Gawker offered to settle the case on terms that were completely reasonable and that anyone else would have taken ($10 million). But because of Thiel’s funding, that was rejected and the case went forward. In other words, with Thiel’s funding this no longer was about coming to a reasonable outcome, but about killing Gawker.

How do you know that Hogan did not share that desire, to kill the site that ruined him. You blame Thiel but all to often people are forced to settle for money simply because of the screwed up nature of our legal system. Some people have principles that are not rooted in money, and desire to sue for other outcomes than simply a large payday

I think it is completely ignorant to believe the only reasonable thing to do in this case was to settle for the 10 Million Dollars.

The Right to a free press is important, but that right is not absolute, and one of those limits should be the Private Bed Rooms of persons, even famous persons. My view of it, this is for all sex tapes unauthorized by their person, is the news media can freely report on the existence of said tape, but actually publishing it is crossing the line

I stand on with the Jury, and hope for a day where we have stronger Personal data protection and ownership laws. “News” organizations should not be allowed to publish sex tapes simply because they where leaked to them, or elsewhere. A prohibition on said ability is not in any way a limit on free speech as they can still talk about the sex tape with out actually publishing it. Look at the famous “The Fapping” that was widely reported by Gawker and Actual News Media, I dont know of Gawker republished any images as I refuse to pollute my network with their trash, but the actual news media was able to report on the event in a verity of ways with out actually publishing the images/videos…..

It is sad you stand with Gawker. I hope one day no one illegally records you have sex with someone and releases it ruining your life. IF that happens I hope those people find ethical journalists that will refuse to publish it…

Are you ethical Mike?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

“in this case, it’s about Gawker invading someone’s very very personal life and activities”

Yeah, I can’t believe the way Gawker invaded Hogan’s personal life, going in and setting up hidden cameras in his bedroom like that.

Oh, wait, they didn’t, did they? So what the hell are you babbling about?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mike It's Not About Thiel

Mike makes a social-legal argument based in social-legal distinctions.

You make a social argument in purely social distinctions.

Mike’s argument is about the possibility of a potential new norm of billionaires providing legal resources to destroy more news outlets. Norms that, even if the lawsuit is bullshit, would bankrupt news outlets left and right just fighting against them through the justice system.

His argument is relevant to a potential future threat against TechDirt in case, say, a MAFIAA representative wants him to stop talking by claiming his reporting isn’t newsworthy and sueing him over those grounds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Appalling how few people understand this case

Thiel and his stalking horse Hogan embody almost everything that is wrong about America’s willingness to let wealth and celebrity use the court system to carry out personal vendettas.

I said I was appalled by how people support the lynching of Gawker just because they didn’t happen to like them.

But at this point in America, I’m not at all surprised.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

silverscarcat (profile) says:

After having thought about it some more...

I have to say, I can’t support Gawker in this case, even with the first amendment implications.

And it’s simple.

Gawker is more of a threat to free speech than this court case is.

You see, this court case can be defeated on appeal or only apply in this instance where a journalism outlet goes overboard.

Gawker, on the other hand, is not government backed, is not beholden to the people, and has done real damage to people’s lives, careers and reputations.

I’ll give some examples, and even though Gawker doesn’t do all of these, they would support them.

Do you remember Gregory Alan Elliot? The Canadian who went to trial for being critical/disagreeing with Feminists?

Before the trial ended, he couldn’t use the internet at all, and he made his living online, so it absolutely destroyed him financially.

And, yes, he did win, as seen here.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/twitter-harassment-trial-verdict-1.3415112

But that wasn’t too long ago, that’s rather fresh in people’s minds.

Not too long ago, a couple of feminists ran to the U.N. to speak about “online harassment” and one of them actually said this…

“Online harassment isn’t only what’s illegal, but it’s also the daily grind of “you suck” or “you’re a liar”…”

I don’t need to tell you how utterly stupid that is, to view criticism and complaints as harassment. And yet those two tried to get the U.N. to step in and put a stop to it.

Yes, I know, the U.N., by itself, has no power over the U.S., but what about the other member states? What if they followed through with that suggestion? After all, Saudi Arabia is on the Human Right’s Council for the U.N.

Also, one of those two ran to the U.S. Congress, has Catherine Clark in her corner, to complain about “online harassment” there.

How about Justine Sacco? One little tweet ruined her life. The person behind ruining her life? Sam “Bring Back Bullying” Biddle.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html – And more examples of people Gawker (and the outrage mob in general) have ruined.

How about Matt Taylor, as I’ve mentioned him before?

My point is, despite the First Amendment implications that this case has for Gawker, I can’t bring myself to care like usual, because Gawker is more of a threat to free speech than the government is.

I believe it was the founder of Reddit, Aaron Swartz, who once said “I’m more worried about social media censoring people than the government. The government has to answer to the people, social media doesn’t.”

No matter how much you want to defend Gawker, no matter how much of an advocate of “if we don’t defend free speech for everyone, then no one has it”, I can’t defend Gawker, not when they’ve shown to have no problem destroying people.

Also, as Gawker, their lackies and everyone who aligns with them are prone to say when people complain about being censored…

“It’s Freedom of Speech, not Freedom from Consequences.”

And also, they love to show this comic to everyone…

https://xkcd.com/1357/

The world that Gawker was pushing us towards, one where we would have to police our own thoughts, otherwise we lose everything, is one I don’t want to live in.

This court case can be thrown out on appeal with the appellate judges saying that it’s a first amendment violation or whatever…

Though poor Eron Gjoni sure didn’t get the appellate judges to rule on the 1st Amendment when his right to speak was taken away for over 18 months by the courts when his ex used the court system to shut him up. Though one of the Appellate Judges did say that the ruling was “bothering” in its 1st Amendment implications.

I’m just going to flat out state this… Between Sacco, Taylor, Thiel and Hogan, who wouldn’t Gawker go after? Who was safe from them? You have to realize, Mike, that eventually they would have gone after you, one of your employees, one of your friends, etc. just to cause outrage. They wouldn’t have stopped until they were forced to.

Anyway, that’s my two cents on it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: After having thought about it some more...

The world that Gawker was pushing us towards, one where we would have to police our own thoughts, otherwise we lose everything, is one I don’t want to live in.

As opposed to the alternative, where courts get to decide what is and is not ‘newsworthy’, and therefor allowed to be reported on? Companies like Gawker can be colossal dicks to people and ruin lives with careless ‘reporting’, but if you don’t think the courts, and by extension the government getting to decide what can be and can not be reported on isn’t more dangerous to free speech you would seem to have a much higher optimism about how they’d use such a tool than I do.

Courts being allowed to decide what’s newsworthy just shifts the problem around, and now instead of people worrying that some sleaze-rag of a ‘news’ group might decide to ruin their life for fun and/or profit by airing their dirty laundry or just making stuff up you’ve got anyone who might report on a sensitive issue, or an embarrassing/corrupt act of someone powerful having to worry whether or not they’ll be buried in court having to argue that what they posted was indeed ‘newsworthy’ and therefor that they should be allowed to post it.

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re: After having thought about it some more...

“As opposed to the alternative, where courts get to decide what is and is not ‘newsworthy’, and therefor allowed to be reported on? Companies like Gawker can be colossal dicks to people and ruin lives with careless ‘reporting’, but if you don’t think the courts, and by extension the government getting to decide what can be and can not be reported on isn’t more dangerous to free speech you would seem to have a much higher optimism about how they’d use such a tool than I do.”

Yeah. I would rather live in the alternative.

Because, in the end, the government is subject to the will of the people, corporations aren’t.

Here’s the funny thing…

The government doesn’t need to do much to censor people anymore, corporations do it for them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: After having thought about it some more...

I’ve no problem with their being consequences, depending on how they’re handed out. If one of them posts a blatant lie that harms someone, sue them for defamation. If one of their workers sneaks into private property and films someone, hit them for trespassing.

A jury/judge getting to decide what is and is ‘newsworthy’ on the other hand I have a huge problem with, as that opens the doors wide for anyone with enough money to absolutely crush anyone who reports on anything they don’t like by forcing them to defend it’s ‘newsworthiness’ in court.

Are classified actions/documents of the government ‘newsworthy’? A news agency reporting on them would certainly think so, but you can be pretty sure the government would disagree due to ‘national security concerns’.

Are abusive or corrupt actions by a private company ‘newsworthy’? The ones who are leaked the documents and reporting on them would likely say so, but the company in question would likely object.

Put another way a sleaze-rag can screw over one person at a time generally, the ability to silence anyone speaking critically of those in power screws over a lot more than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: After having thought about it some more...

I’m glad that someone else sees things the way I do. Here’s a famous example that you left off your list (by accident, I’m sure). Look at how Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward ruined Richard Nixon’s life with that so-called Watergate story. Absolutely disgraceful! It wasn’t Nixon’s own actions that did him in, it was the public finding out. I mean, everything would have been just fine if nobody had ever found out about it. Amirite?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: After having thought about it some more...

I never liked the phrase “It’s Freedom of Speech, not Freedom from Consequences”. If taken to its logical extreme, it’s a definition of freedom of speech that any authoritarian government would love.

Kim Jong Un could say he supports Freedom of Speech, but if one of his subjects says something less than respectful of him, he could put the offender in a labor camp for a decade under the pretext of “His freedom of speech wasn’t free from consequences of his speech”.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Consequences of speech...

Freedom of speech means that government agents will not take action against you as a result of your speech. Mostly this is reflected in our efforts to minimize the kind of speech that is regarded as criminal.

But also freedom of speech means agents and officials shouldn’t take other kinds of action (say, refusing your press pass should your publication print something critical of the government). In the US this sort of thing happens pretty often, to the point of chilling the mainstream media and making them a laughing stock in the international sector.

But when Randal spoke of the consequences of freedom of speech, that is not about government retaliation (which shouldn’t happen) but rather about retaliation from the public sector. So that when Mike Jeffries commented that Abercrombie and Fitch doesn’t want fat or uncool people wearing his clothes, that cost the brand a lot of customers.

It’s a two-edge sword, as per the Chick-fil-a situation in which the company’s anti-gay-marriage statements and policies first cost them customers, but made the losses back with surplus after Mike Huckabee’s Chick-fil-a appreciation day campaign, which demonstrates that public opinion is not necessarily the most ethical.

Rather, public opinion can get pretty hateful and arbitrary, as we’re seeing teeming from the Trump campaign trail.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Consequences of speech...

This was in the context of Gawker, though. Who faced government action via the courts.

Gawker is facing civil action by non-government parties, using the courts, which is the arbitration system provided by the United States.

But were these parties to vacate the suits against Gawker, the government would have no qualm with Gawker regarding these suits.

I can’t say for certain if there are other causes by which Law Enforcement might get into Gawker’s business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Distributing a sex tape without consent is sexual assault. People who spread what is basically evidence of a sex crime should be in jail. Going bankrupt is getting off lightly. Informing the public that a sex tape exists is journalism, but publishing or linking to it is just further harming victims who have already been violated.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Can we please stop bleeding the meaning out of phrases like “sexual assault?” This was a violation of privacy that either was or wasn’t arranged by either or both of the Clems for fun and profit.

That such violations are distressing and the cause of much anguish and social embarrassment is beyond dispute but let’s call it what it is, not what it’s not.

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