UPDATE: Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder, is backing Gawker in its appeal of the Hulk Hogan case.
Gawker CEO Nick Denton has challenged deranged billionaire Peter Thiel to a debate outside the courtroom, following the revelation that it was Thiel—long angry over Gawker's treatment of him—who has funded Hulk Hogan's so-far successful lawsuit against the site for publishing a portion of Hogan's sex tape.
Gawker insisted publication of a portion of the video was newsworthy, Hogan claimed it was a violation of privacy—and a trial ended with a ridiculous judgment: over $100 million for his embarrassment.
The case is interesting to me in that it goes to the limits of free press and free speech, and became much more interesting once Thiel's tyrannical touch was exposed. Do we really think it's okay that rich people should have the ability to squelch negative or unwelcome press? Are we becoming press-release junkies?
I tweeted about it and was alarmed to discover a highly regarded activist whose opinion is that Gawker could avoid being sued out of existence if they wouldn't out people. (Thiel was said to have been initially enraged by Gawker in 2007 when the site wrote about him being gay. It's worth noting that Thiel, an early Facebook investor who is still on its board, is a right-winger who has endorsed Trump, wants to create a Libertarian paradise, offers cash to kids who agree to drop out of school and various other charming things.)
This activist was shrugging off the battle between Denton and Thiel over her lack of support for outing, which implies that she believes people who publish information about public figures' sexual orientations should be vulnerable to lawsuits. I challenged her on this, but there was no budging; chillingly, she wrote (emphasis mine):
I don't believe there is any good in outing someone against their will. Especially people who can't impact policy
I actually don't think reports on celebrity marriages, divorces etc are news relevant to the wider public either.
I have actually talked about the problem with the idea that everyone that speaks in public deserves no privacy before today.
I'm sure a lot of people reading this would agree with some or even all of those statements, but consider what is being said by this writer and by those who continue to shrug off Thiel's thin-skinned meddling with the media, because this is how I wound up viewing the case through the lens of whether or not outing should be legal and acceptable in the press.