First, some quick backstory on why they are shutting down:
Gawker.com, a gossip blog that spawned a multimillion-dollar media empire, is shutting down next week. The decision comes just two days after Univision won an auction to acquire Gawker Media, the parent company of Gawker.com as well as websites like Gizmodo and Lifehacker.http://www.vox.com/2016/8/18/1253939...tting-down-whyGawker Media’s path to bankruptcy began with a decision by Gawker.com editors to publish a video of Hulk Hogan having sex — without the permission of either Hogan or his partner. Hogan sued, arguing that this was a violation of his privacy. A Florida jury agreed, awarding Hogan $140 million in damages earlier this year.
Gawker Media didn’t have $140 million, so the company was forced to declare bankruptcy. The company was put up for auction, with the proceeds used to pay part of Hogan’s judgment.
That out of the way, the more important question raised here is now whether "Lawfare" — a term coined to describe a form of warfare through the use of illegitimate domestic or international law to intentionally damage an opponent — is an attack on Freedom of Press, an otherwise Constitutionally-protected aspect of the First Amendment.
The reason this question arises is because it was later revealed that Peter Thiel was secretly funding Hogan's lawsuit, born of a grudge he's held since 2007 when Gawker published a post outing him as gay.
Also from the Vox article:
Gawker isn't the only publication to be targeted by a disgruntled billionaire. Last year, the liberal magazine Mother Jones defeated a defamation lawsuit filed by Republican donor Frank VanderSloot. Winning the lawsuit cost Mother Jones, a relatively small nonprofit organization, and its insurance company $2.5 million in legal fees.
If VanderSloot's goal was to punish Mother Jones for writing an accurate but unflattering story about him, a loss was almost as good as a victory. His lawsuit sought $74,999 (staying just under the $75,000 threshold that would have allowed Mother Jones to move the case to federal court and away from an Idaho jury that might have favored the hometown plaintiff). So "winning" the lawsuit cost Mother Jones and its insurance company 30 times as much as the amount they would have had to pay if they had lost.
What was really ominous was what happened after VanderSloot's loss. He "announced that he was setting up a $1 million fund to pay the legal expenses of people wanting to sue Mother Jones or other members of the 'liberal press.’"That last sentence sums up nicely how I feel about this on a personal level. While I'll shed no tears for Gawker going under, the manner in which they did is really worrisome because it shows that with a strong enough grudge and a fat enough wallet, there might be little to stop someone or some group with an axe to grind from shutting down much more morally-grounded and responsible journals in the future. Especially when you consider the fact that everyone's favorite blowhard Presidential candidate himself has promised to change the laws about what the press can even write about should he get elected. The idea that money and power can potentially intimidate journalism like this is some scary, scary shit.Thiel's war on Gawker could become a template for other extremely wealthy people with personal or ideological scores to settle against news organizations. And that’s something to worry about even if you think Gawker deserves what it’s getting.