Don’t fret about the state of journalism, says Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.
The New York Times ran an op-ed from Thiel entitled “The Online Privacy Debate Won’t End with Gawker” on Monday afternoon discussing the Gawker lawsuit, its subsequent bankruptcy and impending sale.
Thiel, who was outed as a gay man by Gawker in 2007, secretly bankrolled the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit against the company that resulted in a $140.1 million judgment.
“A free press is vital for public debate,” Thiel wrote. “Since sensitive information can sometimes be publicly relevant, exercising judgment is always part of the journalist’s profession. It’s not for me to draw the line, but journalists should condemn those who willfully cross it.”
“It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people’s sex lives,” he added.
The piece was published just hours after news surfaced that Gawker would be putting itself up for auction this week.
Thiel argues footing the bill for the lawsuit was for a good cause: Protecting privacy online. And that fight is far from finished.
“Protecting individual dignity online is a long-term project, and it will require many delicate judgments,” he wrote, adding Gawker and other publishers can’t continue to blur the lines of privacy for public interest “if we don’t let them.”
Thiel and Hulk Hogan are hardly the only ones with their private lives exposed by the press not for journalism’s sake but for sensationalist clicks. The Daily Beast recently removed an article from its site after a straight male reporter outed gay athletes using same-sex dating app Grindr during the Olympics in Rio.
“The press is too important to let its role be undermined by those who would search for clicks at the cost of the profession’s reputation,” wrote Thiel.
While Thiel’s op-ed boasts his desire to preserve the freedom of the press, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Thiel — and others of similar financial means — can actively work to put a news outlet out of business.
“I will support him until his final victory — Gawker said it intends to appeal — and I would gladly support someone else in the same position,” Thiel wrote, noting he was proud of his role in taking Gawker to task. “The defense of privacy in the digital age is an ongoing cause.”
Bids to buy Gawker are due at 5 p.m. ET on Monday. Gawker founder Nick Denton will no longer helm the 14-year-old company.
“As for Gawker, whatever good work it did will continue in the future, and suggesting otherwise would be an insult to its writers and to readers,” added Thiel.