In a stunning demonstration of the American legal system, a jury in Florida found Gawker Media, as well as its CEO, Nick Denton, and editor A.J. Daulerio, liable for posting a sex tape of Hulk Hogan sleeping with a friend’s wife. The amount in the ruling exceeded $115 million for the initial judgement and over $25 million in punitive damages.
Gawker, a beacon of hard-hitting stories and journalistic integrity, was launched in 2003 as a source of news media and celebrity gossip. Criticized by many, Gawker has worked hard to establish itself as the bad boy of the large media conglomerate club. It has faced controversies in leaking the full screenplay of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, releasing the wrong name of the DNS company that failed to work for Wikileaks, and lately it has refused a court order to take down the private video of Hulk Hogan.
Labeled by most as a tabloid rather than a legitimate source of news, the case heard in Florida focused on whether the sex tape was “newsworthy” and protected by the 1st Amendment or a breech of privacy, as argued by Hulk Hogan’s attorneys. It was clear that the jury sided with the latter, awarding Hogan a sum greater than what he sued for in the first place.
Now, if this case holds, it could have numerous effects on the way the media values our privacy.
- It reinforces the importance of following court orders.
- Our expectation of privacy outweighs the protections of the 1st Amendment.
- And lastly, it discourages similar companies from forming. The risk is clearly too high.
It’s unclear what will play out in Gawker’s future. They have pledged to appeal the ruling.
This isn’t their first controversy, but it might very well be their last.