MuckRock & Vice Announce Fellowship To Investigate Peter Thiel

from the will-charles-harder-be-given-a-new-target? dept

So this is interesting. MuckRock, the really useful FOIA platform (that I regularly use for filing FOIA requests), has announced what it’s calling MuckRock’s Thiel Fellowship, in which it’s offering to give free service to between one and three “Thiel Fellows” who decide to do FOIA projects involved in investigating some Peter Thiel-connected companies:

MuckRock is offering a grant of 250 requests (a $1,000 value), plus our invaluable FOIA expertise, to between one and three inaugural Thiel Fellows who propose projects that help the public better understand organizations or areas of research and public policy connected with Thiel.

As MuckRock notes, many of Thiel’s efforts touch on government activities (which would make them open to certain FOIA requests):

Peter Thiel – co-founder of both PayPal and Palantir and an early Facebook investor – has profoundly reshaped industry after industry and, ultimately, remade the world to fit his radical vision of the future. Unfortunately, despite his impact in industries ranging from digital payments and mass government surveillance to radical life extension and seasteading, the media has done relatively little reporting on the details of his companies, often leaving the public in the dark on his contributions to society.

Vice’s Motherboard tech site has also stepped up and agreed to double the amount so that even more people can file Thiel-related FOIAs.

Of course, the name MuckRock chose for this is a clear play on the well-known Thiel Fellowship, in which he gives $100,000 to entrepreneurial college students to work on building companies, rather than completing school.

And while I’m not so sure how much Thiel-related info is really FOIA-able, this may put to the test Thiel’s stated claim that he wasn’t against journalism that made him look bad, in funding lawyer Charles Harder to sue Gawker into oblivion, but rather to “send a message” about protecting privacy. Of course, when you try to silence the press, there’s always a chance that the press decides to turn an even bigger spotlight on you. I guess now we have to wait and see if Harder starts threatening MuckRock with trademark infringement claims over the name…

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Companies: facebook, muckrock, palantir, vice

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Comments on “MuckRock & Vice Announce Fellowship To Investigate Peter Thiel”

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29 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Delightful

By using his own tactic against him he can’t object without calling attention to the hypocrisy. He was willing to throw money at any lawsuit aimed at Gawker, now two companies make it clear that they’re willing to fund(to an extent) action that investigates his activity.

He either stays silent and lets any FOIA requests progress normally, or he objects to the ‘general bounty’ offered and highlights the double-standards where he sees nothing wrong with bankrolling efforts against someone else, but objects when someone does the same to him.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

um, something not justifying something, or something i remember from aeons ago…
the basic conundrum: good can not use eee-vil methods to attain good ends; eee-vil can use eee-vil methods to attain eee-vil ends…
i would also remind various pearl-clutching kampers, freedom means people are free to make stupid, or tasteless, or ill-advised words and actions, otherwise they arent really free, are they ? ? ?

NickDenton says:

Re: Re:

Nothing Peter Thiel did was evil, I find it odd that people seem to have a Problem with Thiel funding the lawsuit but have no issues with Public Knowledge, ACLU, IJ, Innocent Project, or the 1000’s of other groups who’s sole existence is to help people that can not afford proper legal assistance to get that legal assistance.

The legal system is completely out of balance, Gawker likely could have used it vast finical resources to force a premature settlement simply by exhausting the monetary supply that the victim had access to for the lawsuit, That is not a good thing.

Gawker violated a persons privacy, not for the first time. Previously gawker was the 800 pound gorilla and used their expensive lawyers to crush their victims, I did not see anyone calling for a “Gawker Fellow” to use FIOA or other tools to get gawker.

So if what Peter Thiel did is to be called “evil” or “abuse” do you believe Gawker doing the same thing was evil or abuse? Or can only “journalists” use the legal system to crush people? (and BTW Gawker was not Journalism, it was trash)

There has to be a line drawn where privacy trumps a miserable click bait site’s “right” to post something. I am personally fine with that line being drawn and unauthorized and stolen sex tapes

Pretty sure TechDirt has been on the side of prohibiting and prosecuting persons for Revenge Porn, so why is what Gawker did acceptable?

If you find what Gawker did either in this case or 100’s of other despicable “stories” then you should have no problem with a 3rd party assisting a gawker victim obtain justice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What Thiel did was abuse because he wasn’t helping people who cannot afford legal representation. He helped Hulk Hogan shop around for a friendly venue for his lawsuit after it was thrown out of federal court (twice, I think). That’s legal harassment and not at all the same thing as what the ACLU is doing. He then helped maneuver the suit as to avoid insurance payout, and what would have probably been a decent settlement for Hogan.

Sure, that gawker post was trashy as hell, probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but the damages awarded and bankruptcy were far from necessary.

rk57957 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The legal system is completely out of balance, Gawker likely could have used it vast finical resources to force a premature settlement simply by exhausting the monetary supply that the victim had access to for the lawsuit, That is not a good thing.”

So if Gawker abuses the court system, bad.

“Nothing Peter Thiel did was evil”

But if Peter Theil does it, not bad?

amoshias (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s interesting. Why do you find it sad?

I’m a big fan of speech, even speech I don’t like. I’m not a fan of vindictive billionaires being able to use the US court system to reshape the media landscape to their liking. And I’m especially not a fan of the precedent this sets for OTHER billionaires who get butt-hurt by something a mean, nasty tabloid says about them. Or the mean, nasty New York Times.

If Thiel had just done the honorable thing and BOUGHT GAWKER – which would not be a major outlay based on his estimated net worth – that would have been one thing and easy to laugh off, although still disturbing. But doing it on the cheap – using OUR court system – is sickening.

Okay, so there – those are my reasons. What are yours?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Er, no?

That’s the dumbest definition of “freedom” I’ve ever heard. If your definition of freedom is “people can do a thing but then they have to accept punishment for it,” then literally everyone is free to do literally everything. If that’s your definition of “freedom” then the word is completely meaningless.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While normally I wouldn’t wish such a fate on anyone(well, not many people anyway…), I can’t help but think that it would be both fitting and funny if you were on the receiving end of something similar to what brought Gawker down, namely a vindictive rich person making it clear that he/she will bankroll anyone who cares to bring a lawsuit against you until you have no other choice but to fold. Maybe then you’ll figure out why TD has a problem with what happened to Gawker.

If the only thing you care about is how ‘bad’ Gawker was and how happy you are that someone drove them into the dirt then you’re focusing on entirely the wrong part of the story.

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