Story About Ex-Sony Pictures Boss Magically Disappears From Gawker; His Lawyer Tells Reporters Not To Talk About It
from the right-to-be-forgotten? dept
Can people use a bankruptcy proceeding to create a “right to be forgotten”? We already know that Europe has implemented a form of a right to be forgotten that it’s now looking to expand. However, in the US, the First Amendment has protected us against such things — even if some politicians don’t realize it.
However, it appears that something has happened, hidden behind the sealed doors of Gawker’s bankruptcy that has resulted in a story about ex-Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton disappearing from the Gawker archive:
A 2015 Gawker article that highlighted leaked emails written by Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton has been quietly removed from the internet, the latest in a line of stories from the former digital media company to be disappeared under apparent legal pressure from powerful figures.
The story pieced together some of Lynton?s emails disclosed in the Sony Hack, the monstrous dump of company materials in late 2014 that was catastrophic for the studio and widely covered by the media.
Lynton — who once claimed that nothing good has come from the internet ever — left Sony Pictures recently to focus on being chair of the board at Snap, the company that does Snapchat (a company that kinda relies on that no good, very bad internet Lynton hates). But apparently, on the side, he was somehow secretly convincing the Gawker “estate” to delete some articles he didn’t like.
This is different than when Univsion pulled down a bunch of Gawker stories after purchasing many of the company’s assets out of bankruptcy. In that case, Univision claimed — questionably — that since it had purchased just the assets, but not liabilities, it had to take down any story that was subject to a lawsuit. This ignored a whole bunch of things, including the “first publication” rule, but whatever. In this case, the story was still hosted by what’s left of Gawker. That is, when Gawker sold a bunch of assets to Univision, it did not sell the flagship “Gawker” site itself, but has instead maintained the archives. And that included some stories on Lynton that revealed things via the Sony Pictures email hack.
And thus it appears that some sort of settlement was reached behind the scenes, with no public explanation or details… to flat out delete a story that apparently Lynton or someone close to Lynton didn’t like. As reporter Matthew Zeitlin notes, we should all be concerned that a news story can disappear just “because of opaque bankruptcy proceedings.” And, of course, because this is the internet, the Streisand Effect is already taking over, with people passing around links to the story that was disappeared. The story in question, like many stories, was probably embarrassing to some people, but there’s been no evidence presented (publicly at least) that it was untrue. No one has shown any evidence that the Sony hack emails that it was based on were not accurate. Ironically, the suppressed story itself is, somewhat, about using money and connections to do things that normal people can’t do, so perhaps it’s only fitting that a behind the scenes, opaque process was then used to try to memory hole that story.
But the story gets even worse. The Hollywood Reporter has also reported on this and notes that Lynton’s lawyer, Andrew Celli, has warned its reporter, Eriq Gardner, not to even report on the disappearing story:
Celli made contact to The Hollywood Reporter’s general counsel to express concern after I made inquiries about the vanished article with Gawker. He later suggested that to even repeat the gist of the original Gawker story would be damaging. He threatened a lawsuit and, referring to the Sony hack, told me, ?There is a sin at the bottom of this. It?s wrong. The source for information is the result of a crime.?
This is, in the famed words of Popehat, what is known as censorious thuggery. Threatening people with litigation for reporting the news creates serious chilling effects. As Gardner notes in his article — and as we’ve been reporting ourselves — there seems to be a big business lately in so-called “reputation management” efforts to get embarrassing news stories disappeared from the internet. That should concern everyone. There’s a reason that the US has a 1st Amendment and rejects things like a “Right to be Forgotten.” Such things have a history of being abused by the rich and powerful to silence the press, just because the rich and powerful don’t like those stories.
Even if one could give Lynton the benefit of the doubt in getting Gawker’s estate to take down the original story, the fact that his lawyer then threatened another publication with a lawsuit just for reporting on the situation makes this even more problematic. Lynton may not like the internet very much, but that doesn’t mean he gets to censor it at will.