back to article Hulk Hogan's sex tape, a Silicon Valley billionaire, and a $10m revenge plot to destroy Gawker

It's long been feared that satire may be dead. But the proof seems to have arrived in reports that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel is secretly funding a Hulk Hogan sex-tape legal case against media outlet Gawker as part of a 10-year revenge fantasy for outing him as gay. The Hogan case was already a weird one: he was …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Defending Gawker? Seriously? The rag that spent a not insignificant amount of effort, on multiple occasions, to out people as homosexuals for no reason other than because it would generate traffic? A scandal rag that destroys lives for profit? A "journal" that - lets not forget - peddled a man's stolen sex tape and called it free speech whilst simultaneously condemning the release of similar material about women.

    A hypocritical, lying, libelous, two-bit, arrogant, insufferable, criminal enterprise funded by the fucking russian mafia that would gladly rake over the coals of the holocaust if it could make a quick buck.

    You're defending that?

    I'm done with this place.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Quick question before you go ...

      ... how do you suggest we differentiate between those media outlets which should enjoy press freedom and those which shouldn't?

      1. Dadmin

        In the UK they shut down News of the World because they engaged in criminal activity, and they ended it with massive payouts in damages. Seems like a good place to start. Yelling fire in a crowded theater is not fucking news, friend. Not by any standard. Not all free speech is welcome, some of it is just shit, and can be safely ignored, yet when the line is crossed there can be clear punishment handed out. It has in these two instances. So far, so good. YMMV.

        Ask Rupert how he feels about his "news hounds" crawling through trash bins and breaking into computers and voicemail systems? My guess is he'll shut is fucking old, crusty mouth and get back to dying a slow death, surrounded by his money and not much else of value.

        1. AlexS

          They didn't really kill the News of the world. It was just sleepong. As soon as it closed Murdoch registered "The Sun on Sunday' as a domain name. A while later we got a "new" paper. It was a strategy to wriggle out of a bad climate, nothing more.

        2. PleebSmasher
          Megaphone

          @Dadmin

          "Yelling fire in a crowded theater is not fucking news, brotherrr."

          FTFY

        3. John H Woods Silver badge

          "In the UK they shut down News of the World because they engaged in criminal activity ... Not all free speech is welcome, some of it is just shit, and can be safely ignored, yet when the line is crossed there can be clear punishment handed out. It has in these two instances. So far, so good. YMMV." -- dadmin

          So detected and prosecuted criminal activity punished by the courts is on the same level as a private individual trying to shut down a media outlet with a vast personal fortune just because you like both results? To my mind, only one of these processes has legitimacy, even though I hate Gawker.

          In principle I have no problem with Thiel funding the lawsuit if it makes no difference to the outcome. But it makes me somewhat uneasy.

        4. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
      2. dan1980

        @John H Woods

        "... how do you suggest we differentiate between those media outlets which should enjoy press freedom and those which shouldn't?"

        All media outlets should have 'press freedom' - even Gawker.

        So, while outing someone as gay is not really something which should threaten that, publishing what amounts to 'revenge porn'* is not something that the 'press' should have the 'freedom' of doing. And if you break the rule in that way, it's not somehow throwing out 'press freedom' to be sued into oblivion, as appears to be the case here.

        I certainly see the point about this being a personal vendetta but the fact remains that there was a genuine offence and a court of law awarded damages of $140m. The result is the same whether Thiel funded the lawsuit or not and is unchanged by his motivations for doing so.

        Perhaps the figure is too high and that may be amended later, but, again, Thiels involvement and motives should not figure into that.

        * - Because that's what this is: a disgruntled confidant leaking private sexual material.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          All media outlets should have 'press freedom' - even Gawker.

          So, while outing someone as gay is not really something which should threaten that

          Explain to me why someone's personal preferences should be made public if they are not in any way involved in anything where such a preference would matter. I do not classify this as an attack on the freedom of the press, unless you describe "freedom" as "free from the need to comply with the law" (I'm leaving off the "decency and ethics" bit because I think we've lost that a long time ago).

          The basic truth is that everyone (which includes you and said billionaire) is entitled to privacy. To break that should only be done for compelling reasons. That being said, that's generally not how it works out because virtual rags like Gawker more or less live on that sort of abuse and they're well versed at playing "jurisdiction jump" to prevent getting sued for it (you have seen that recently in a UK case which involved 3 celebs, where the press simply published their identity in countries outside the reach of UK laws).

          I am thus actually in favour of someone with good cash to sponsor such a lawsuit, although I personally think he could have been more open about it - it wasn't exactly a well kept secret, and trying to hide it just doesn't look good. By doing so, they make it clear that it's still not open season for the media to ruin someone's life for profit.

      3. John Savard Silver badge

        No one has the right to commit libel - and in some other countries, if not the U.S., defamatory material which, although true, is nobody else's business, is still libelous. The U.K. is such a country.

        1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          IANAL

          "No one has the right to commit libel - and in some other countries, if not the U.S., defamatory material which, although true, is nobody else's business, is still libelous. The U.K. is such a country."

          IANAL, but no, the UK isn't. I'm basing this off commonwealth law, which I believe is the same.

          Off the top of my head, libel and slander count as defamation (depending if you wrote/published or said it), and the defenses for defaming someone are:

          - Justification. If it's true, and ideally provable.

          - Fair comment. Whilst false, a reasonable person may arrive at that conclusion.

          - Privilege. Usually parliamentary, probably not relevant here.

          So even if something is "no-one else's business", if it's true or reasonable to infer, then you can say it.

          Whilst quite a lot of journalists are filthy muck rakers, a number just report the truth and have whatever slant put on it by their editors (not sure if that makes them better or worse), and a small number do a vital role in "speaking truth to power".

          So in general while I dislike the Murdoch press and would perhaps like to see it run more honestly/honorably, but I fear any such powers will be used to quash the likes of Private Eye.

          For the USians Private Eye is a weekly paper that tends to have been writing about pretty much every major scandal in the UK for *years* before the mainstream press picks it up. Ian Hislop (Lord Gnome) is the editor, and is pretty much a Terry Pratchett character come to life.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          @ John Savard

          I was under the impression that, in the UK, publishing the truth was an absolute defence to libel/slander. There are criminal and civil sanctions that can be used if it is, obviously, unlawful or an egregious invasion of privacy. (Eg., Revenge porn laws and super injunctions.)

          IANAL so can anyone educate me please?

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Historically in the UK, truth was a defence, but since the burden of proof was with the defendent it's a big strong to call it an absolute defence. I believe things have changed with the recent reform, though.

          2. Lotaresco

            Truth not an absolute defence in cases of defamation

            "I was under the impression that, in the UK, publishing the truth was an absolute defence to libel/slander."

            One example that I have seen cited by lawyers of cases where the truth is *not* a defence in a case of defamation are where the truth is that the complainant had a criminal conviction which is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

            the Defamation Act 2013 made the truth a defence but the onus is on the defendant to prove that the statement was true. The assumption will be that until the truth is proved by the defendant that the statement was false.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Anonymous Coward

      Uh, not quite sure where you got us defending Gawker from this. It is possible for us to dislike both sides of this story – we often dislike both sides of stories.

      C.

      1. PleebSmasher
        Trollface

        Gawker, the media outlet

        "But beyond the unnerving idea that a billionaire is prepared to use his endless trunks of money in an effort to destroy a media outlet because it personally upset him is the fact that Thiel is, in theory at least, a defender of the free press."

        Gawker is, in theory at least, a media outlet.

      2. Just Enough Silver badge

        Re: Anonymous Coward

        We are indeed spoilt for choice when looking for reasons to despise both parties.

        I'm rooting for Hulk Hogan. He may be a ridiculous, aged, cartoon figure but otherwise harmless. He deserves payback for what amounted to media-sanctioned revenge-porn.

        The other two? Slimey scandal rag vs Filthy rich loon? They can continue to slug it out until neither is standing, as far as I'm concerned. But, I fear the guy with the money has to be favourite.

      3. Pseudonymous Diehard

        Re: Anonymous Coward

        El Reg ... the emo teen of IT journalism.

        Dont hate on the reg. El Reg has held my hand through a number of challenging dumps at work.

        One day im hoping to cash in my upvotes (thats how it works right?) to have an El Reg writer personally come and help me birth some epic stool by rubbing my back and reassuring me through the process.

        Im not fussy which one. Ill return the favour by correcting grammatical errors at the time.

        Purging colons all round.

    3. asdf Silver badge

      f__k Gawker but

      I actually do enjoy Deadspin even though I don't really care about sports that much. One of the funniest comment places on the internet (long live good and bad kinja). I couldn't give a shit if Gawker goes under or goes away but I hope Deadspin gets bought or spun off. They have some pretty entertaining writers like Burneko (warning though to EU readers their football coverage is pretty much confined to one dude who constantly rips on the low hanging fruit that is MLS).

  2. GrumpyKiwi

    These 10 Reasons Are Why Your Clickbait Site Might Be F**&ed

    Clickbait site gets ruined over clickbait material. Can't laugh hard enough.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: These 10 Reasons Are Why Your Clickbait Site Might Be F**&ed

      Surely the headline should be: 140 Million Reasons Not to Act Like Total Bellends

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: These 10 Reasons Are Why Your Clickbait Site Might Be F**&ed

        Also good.

        While dropping a clickbait in the company loo I also thought of:

        What This 1980's Star Did With $140 Million Will Shock You

        Secret Trick Of Billionaire Earns $140 Million

        View This Shocking Law Story Before It Disappears

  3. quxinot Silver badge

    The depressing part is the greater issue.

    There's a market for clickbait sites.

    I wonder if mister Barnum would have invested in them as startups.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      The click-bait sites just took what newspapers had been doing for decades and refined it slightly. Headlines are intended to draw you into reading the rest of the article, whether you do that by clicking on a link, or turning over a page.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Excellent..

        The click-bait sites just took what newspapers had been doing for decades and refined it slightly. Headlines are intended to draw you into reading the rest of the article, whether you do that by clicking on a link, or turning over a page.

        You've just provided another excellent reason for ad blocking..

        I'd say the ad industry is in big trouble, and sites like Gawker are not exactly helping.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      If you knew the history of Barnum you would already know the answer and that answer is not just yes, but hell yes he would!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    problems on both sides

    ... first it is a little alarming that there is the possibility of the court denying the insurance from paying this. I hope this can only happen because the 'company' is insured and he wants the damages paid by the individuals therefore his case is with the individuals not the 'company'... otherwise why ever buy legal insurance again?

    ... second is that this rag making these headlines sounds like it is attacking him for being gay. I have a feeling that kind of thing in the UK would come under more specific laws.(could be wrong).

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: problems on both sides

      >I have a feeling that kind of thing in the UK would come under more specific laws.

      Libel/slander laws are a heckuva lot looser in the States which is why this verdict was a bit surprising.

    2. Afernie

      Re: problems on both sides

      "second is that this rag making these headlines sounds like it is attacking him for being gay"

      I suspect it's more along the lines of pointing out he's gay, yet somehow has no problem donating political funds to homophobic creatures like Ted Cruz.

  5. FrankAlphaXII

    Judge Campbell dismissed Gawker's motions to reduce damages and a new trial. They're done. And trust me, the State of Florida will collect.

    Maybe when your editor says stupid shit in the courtroom, such as the only time they wouldn't post a sex tape is if the star is four years old, in the jurisdiction that pretty much loves the plaintiff anyway, you done fucked up.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. asdf Silver badge

      >And trust me, the State of Florida will collect.

      Unless you are a foster kid in their system in which case you will just disappear. At least our OJ is cheaper I guess what with them looking the other way to the slavery in the orchards. Florida state government is goddamn joke.

      1. FrankAlphaXII

        Spoken like a true Floridian, Eva Longoria's movie about the Orange workers is something everyone oughta see if they're not familiar with it.

        What is it? Like 850 kids that DCF's missing?

        Sometimes I miss the hell out of the place, but other times I'm happy as fuck that I got out last year.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          yeah

          Like a lot places the good things in Florida are not due to the their state and local government who seem to only be good at giving taxpayer money to billionaire sports team owners. The whole red state thing of showing people how bad government can be (though Illinois unfunded pensions do show bipartisanship in this regard).

          1. FrankAlphaXII

            Re: yeah

            Yeah, I'm from Orlando, I know exactly what you're talking about, actually in both regards, Florida and Illinois.

            My grandmother had to pick between her deceased husband's railroad pension and her pension from the State of IL, she's lucky that she gets anything at all out of them.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BTW All of you are gay.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      I'm gay, and so is my wife...

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        "I'm gay, and so is my wife..."

        So either you're female, or you are each other's beards.

        Tsk. Ruined your joke. I am a bad person. :)

  7. Jim84

    What happened to the Love Sponge?

    I think the real Villain in this piece was the person who secretly filmed two people having sex and then leaked the tape. Or does Hulk Hogan have to prove that the tape was secretly filmed rather than the Love Sponge proving that it wasn't? That part of the law seems a bit messed up.

    Also Peter Thiel just got considerably richer by backing cancer biotech StemcentRX:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2015/09/16/peter-thiel-backed-stemcentrx-emerges-with-5-billion-valuation/

  8. frank ly

    Upsetting rich people

    From what I read in a newspaper article, it was Max Mosley who bankrolled the UK civil court actions of various people against the News Of The World phone hacking activities. This was obviously a delayed revenge for the stories (and videos) of his 'fun filled' activities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Upsetting rich people

      From what I read in a newspaper article, it was Max Mosley who bankrolled the UK civil court actions of various people against the News Of The World phone hacking activities. This was obviously a delayed revenge for the stories (and videos) of his 'fun filled' activities.

      To be honest, in his place I'd done the same if I had that sort of money. I've dealt enough with personal detail digging jackals to applaud any move to get them into trouble - after all, they have no problem with innuendo and plain lies (aka "mistakes") if that furthers their sale of newspapers.

      If I recall correctly he went one further. He set up some trust or charity which is pretty much the sole source of income of an alternative press regulator. As revenges go, that has a degree of elegance to it.

  9. Ralph B

    Well ...

    I would have titled this "Handbags at Dawn!" but I wouldn't like Peter Thiel to take offence and organise a law suit against me.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Public Interest...

    Another case of the 'press' (and I use the term loosely) in the form of gossip rag Gawker confusing the 'public interest' with 'interesting to the public' (and even that is debateable)

  11. John Savard Silver badge

    Not Much Sympathy

    Outing someone as "gay" can amount to exposing him to the possibility of violence and death, so they're getting what they deserve.

    1. Havin_it

      Re: Not Much Sympathy

      While I don't disagree, I think that's pretty unlikely in Thiel's case. Unless he was kicking about in Uganda without his minders or wallet the day the story broke.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not Much Sympathy

        It wasn't just thiel, though. They're done this multiple times to people who were not even public figures.

  12. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Nobody is talking about much else in the Valley

    About what you'd expect of people who put their faith in unicorns.

  13. Andrew Moore

    Surely...

    ...if a third party funded the case then it is considered champerty (and possibly barratry)- is this legal in America?

    1. frank ly

      Re: Surely...

      According to the Wikipedia explanations of champerty and barratry, this is neither. For champery, Thiel would have to be in for a cut of the damages. He obviously doesn't need the money and you can bet he's aware that he shouldn't do that. For barratry, it has to be a unjustified action, which it obviously isn't.

  14. raving angry loony

    Outing hypocrisy

    The article says "when it wrote a story back in 2007 announcing his sexuality to the world before he had a chance to go public himself."

    Which is complete bullshit, and anyone writing for El Reg should know better.

    With his funding of anti-gay legislation, protests, and groups, with his close relationship to rabidly anti-gay personalities and politicians, I doubt he had any intention of going public. That was the hypocrisy that the paparazzi fuckwits at Gawker pointed out, and just that once all I could say was good for them. Hypocrisy needs to be outed.

  15. ecofeco Silver badge

    Uh oh, now you've done it!

    Be prepared for the onslaught of 'bot puppets!

    BTW, you might also want to look into other things this guy has supported. Most of it quite loathsome and quite anti-republic, anti-democtractic, anti-due process, and very, very class based. Among other things.

    If you liked the 18th and 19th century, you'll LOVE this guy.

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