May 26, 2016 Last Updated 7:58 am

Silicon Valley’s shot across the bow; FT reports on Apple’s ‘interest’ in Time Warner

Gawker loses effort to have $140 million judgement against it overturned, now the case will likely move to the Florida Second District Court of Appeal

The interview with Peter Thiel conducted by Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times finally nailed down the Gawker-Hulk Hogan story: Silicon Valley billionaire gets upset by media outlet, has the means and desire to take it down through the justice system, and does so with little regret.

For Thiel, according to the interview, his actions were less about what Gawker did to him personally, or Hulk Hogan, but a desire to influence the media going forward.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel told Sorkin. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”


Call it the MAD theory of media management: don’t dare report on us or we’ll go after you, too.

But what was bizarre about the interview is that Sorkin apparently didn’t ask Thiel exactly what it was that Gawker did to him to make him feel that way. Yes, we can guess that it was the article that “outed” him as gay, or was it? Maybe, instead, it was the article that pointed to his Cato Unbound column that he penned that seemed to say that it was a mistake to give women the vote.

“Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron,” Thiel said.

This is no small thing: if the motivation for the lawsuits was less about suppressing gossip and the personal foibles of celebrities, and more suppression of people’s political activities and beliefs, far more of the public might see Gawker and Nick Denton as the aggrieved party here.

This is especially important in this political season where the presumed nominee of the Republican Party has publicly said he wants to change the laws that protect the media from being sued whenever they write about poltiicians.

“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Donald Trump said during a Texas rally in February. “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said, according to a Politico report.

That can’t happen now, of course. Libel laws protect journalists when they report on public figures if what journalists write is the truth.

What I found odd about the Sorkin interview is that Thiel, who is a California delegate for Trump, was never asked what Gawker published about him that he felt was untrue. Instead, we are left with the impression that Thiel’s bankrolling of the lawsuits involving Hulk Hogan was the motivation. Somehow I doubt that is the sole reason.


Gawker lost in court again yesterday when a Florida judge ruled upheld the jury verdict of $140.1 million judgement against Gawker Media, Nick Denton and former Gawker editor in chief A.J. Daulerio. Gawker will now move the case to the Florida Second District Court of Appeal.

“Just days after Gawker Media’s site Gizmodo exposed that Facebook’s news section has suppressed certain points of view, we’ve now learned that a Facebook board member and a major funder of The Committee to Protect Journalists has been secretly funding a legal campaign against our journalists,” Gawker said in a statement following the judge’s ruling. “There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefitted and this case is far from over.”

The Financial Times is reporting that Apple executive Eddy Cue broached the idea of Apple acquiring Time Warner. According to the report, discussions went nowhere, never reaching the desk of Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Left out of the reports, however, was why Cue was meeting with Time Warner and why he would have suggested the move.

Such a meeting with Time Warner would have come at a time important to both companies: Apple was trying to secure content for its Apple TV subscription service, but could never get media companies on board for anything than an app store solution it eventually rolled out. Time Warner, on the other hand, was looking for ways to boost its prospects and eventually chose to spin-off Time Inc.

Now the timing here is important, as Time Inc. was spun off in 2014, while the FT says the meetings took place last year. So, you can’t line up the events in a nice, logical timeline, but you can see that both companies were looking for solutions to certain problems they were having.

But the idea that Apple will soon be competing with media companies only reinforces the notion that the big tech firms are more competitor than partner. Nonetheless, one senses that if Cue mentioned a possible buy it was likely just a trial balloon just to see what the Time Warner executive on the other side might say in return. It went nowhere, after all.

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