Lessons from Gawker caseThe unlikely pairing of legendary professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and billionaire godfather of the PayPal Mafia Peter Thiel has been in the news lately. What linked them was Gawker Media, which exposes the private lives of celebrities and Silicon Valley big shots.
Hogan sued Gawker for violating his privacy when a sex tape of him and his friend’s wife was posted on the site, and Hogan was awarded $140 million, which could shut down Gawker Media.
Until then, the protection of privacy and the media’s freedom of speech were the main focus. While the sex tape was clearly a product of yellow journalism, the consequences are not within the realm of reason.
But the involvement of Thiel opened a new chapter. It was later learned that Thiel secretly helped Hogan finance the lawsuit to bring down Gawker.
The billionaire has never hidden his antagonism toward Gawker, as its subsidiary Valleywag reported on Thiel’s homosexuality in 2007. After all, it turned out a Silicon Valley billionaire used money and information to exploit the legal system and restrict media freedom.
While Thiel criticized Gawker for shamelessly releasing the sex tape to increase visitor traffic, it is not entirely true. Gawker has been writing many articles addressing the soft spots of Silicon Valley big shots.
The report that started Thiel’s rage was not about his privacy but about the exclusive culture of Silicon Valley, and many readers are concerned that the decision has left a bad precedent that going against a Silicon Valley elite means facing a downfall.
Just in time, it was exposed that Facebook, where Thiel is a board member, is operated based not on computer algorithms but on the leftist inclinations of editors. It was reported by Gizmodo, owned by Gawker.
In the 2015 film “Kingsman” and Dan Brown’s 2013 novel “Inferno,” the villain is a genius entrepreneur with a noble cause. In “Kingsman,” the villain plans a global killing spree to save the earth.
In “Inferno,” a genius scientist conspires to spread a virus that can kill one-third of the population. When a genius has misguided ideals, it can lead to catastrophe.
When the media can no longer pick a fight, the conspiracy may not just belong in the movies.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 31, Page 31
*The author is head of the new digital team at the JoongAng Ilbo.