Monday, June 06, 2016

STOP THE PRESS - 'The Hulk' vs Internet Moguls

"Hulk Hogan, media ethics and the battling Internet moguls" PBS NewsHour 5/30/2016


SUMMARY:  When Hulk Hogan won $140 million in court from millionaire Nick Denton's Gawker Media after it published video of him having sex, the verdict raised serious questions about journalistic ethics.  Hogan's suit was funded by Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal who Gawker outed as gay a decade earlier.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Wired's Jason Tanz for more on the case and its implications.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  So, let's go over just basics of what happened in this case, because most people aren't following Hulk Hogan's sex tape saga too closely.

JASON TANZ, Editor-At-Large, WIRED:  Sure.

So, a few years ago, Gawker published an article that included a video of a sex tape that Hulk Hogan had made, actually was made without his knowledge.  They declared it was in the public interest because Hulk Hogan was a public figure and he had gone on record talking about how he had not had sex with this woman, and they had proof that he had.  So they published it, somewhat gleefully, which has always been Gawker's kind of stock and trade.

They have been very forward in their — in what they declare to be in the public interest.  And they thought this was.  Hulk Hogan didn't see things that way.  He brought a lawsuit against them.  The jury found against Gawker to the tune of $140 million, which was a pretty shocking about.

Gawker has appealed the case and they're waiting to see how that plays out.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, how does Peter Thiel get involved in this?  He — there's no love lost between the founder of Gawker, Nick Denton, and Peter Thiel.

JASON TANZ:  Nick Denton had suspected that there was actually somebody funding Hulk Hogan's lawsuit, because the way Hogan was prosecuting the suit, he was making decisions that, if he were interested in making money, game theory suggests that he would have done something differently.

He could have taken reportedly about a $10 million settlement.  He also withdrew a part of the lawsuit that would have required a payout from Gawker's insurance.  They actually just withdraw that, so that Gawker would be on the hook and not the insurance company.

So, that indicated maybe there was something else going on.  In 2007, Gawker had — and, specifically, its site Valleywag had outed Peter Thiel as a gay man.  Thiel at the time swore his revenge.  And now, nine years later, he is getting it.  He had a team of lawyers who were looking for various plaintiffs who could file suits that they could fund, and apparently they found more than one.  Supposedly, there a couple of other suits out there that he's prepared to bring against Gawker as well.

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