Peter Thiel ties Gawker lawsuit to fight against revenge porn

Peter Thiel ties Gawker lawsuit to fight against revenge porn
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Venture capitalist Peter Thiel is defending his financial support for litigation targeting Gawker Media for its reporting on celebrities by likening it to efforts to crack down on privacy violations like "revenge porn."

In a New York Times op-ed on Monday defending his decision to fund a case that ultimately forced the media company to put itself up for sale, Thiel cited the Intimate Privacy Protection Act in Congress, which would impose tougher penalties on those who post sexually explicit images of others without consent.

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“Nicknamed the Gawker Bill, it would also provide criminal consequences for third parties who sought to profit from such material,” he said of the legislation. “This is a step in the right direction. Protecting individual dignity online is a long-term project, and it will require many delicate judgments.

“We can begin on solid ground by acknowledging that it is wrong to expose people’s most intimate moments for no good reason,” he continued.

Thiel's description of the legislation as the "Gawker Bill" is uncommon, however.

A spokesperson for Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the lead sponsor of the bill, declined to comment on his endorsement or characterization of the legislation.

Thiel’s fight with Gawker has its roots in a 2007 post on one of the company’s blogs that was the first to publicly discuss the fact that he identifies as gay. He has since backed a case brought by the wrestler Terry Bollea, better known by his stage name Hulk Hogan, concerning the company’s decision to publish stills from a sex tape he was featured in without his permission.

The publicity around Thiel’s role in the suit is compounded by his open support for Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRussian sanctions will boomerang States, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash A Presidents Day perspective on the nature of a free press MORE, whose hardline stance on immigration has alienated many in Silicon Valley. Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention last month, where he was the first openly gay speaker in its history to discuss his sexuality.

The venture capitalist, who is on the board of Facebook and made his name as a founder of PayPal, used the op-ed Monday to paint his lawsuit as part of a fight for privacy online.

“The defense of privacy in the digital age is an ongoing cause,” he said. “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. It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people’s sex lives.”

That characterization is unlikely to sway his critics, who say his backing for the lawsuit is simply retribution against a media outlet whose coverage he does not like. The case and his support for Trump have drawn increased scrutiny on Thiel and raised questions about whether the companies he is associated with back his positions.

His op-ed was seemingly timed to coincide with a landmark date in his battle against the media company. Potential buyers had until 5:00 p.m. on Monday to submit their bids for Gawker Media.