Gawker. Remember them? How quickly they disappeared after having the book thrown at them. Or should I say a chair, by wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker as we know was a master troll gleefully eviscerating brands like Coke and PR employees like Justine Sacco. The brand which was once worth 500 million was bought by Univision and then ceased operations.
Many journalists were up in arms about the fate of Gawker and what it represented for "free speech," laying the blame at billionaire Peter Thiel's feet for funding the lawsuit, because Gawker sycophants also love class warfare as much as they do publicly humiliating someone. Or as this tweet neatly sums it up:
"Gawker shutting down is chilling, omg some random guy made a mean joke on Facebook lets destroy his life because we are brave journalists."
— Virginia Dare (@vdare) August 18, 2016
Buried under the clickbait crack that was Hulk Hogan were a couple other lawsuits against Gawker. One of them was from V .A. Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur, scientist, who claims to have invented email. Ayyadurai's lawsuit against Gawker claimed their defamatory statements caused damage to his reputation. Gawker ended up settling the case, paying him $750,000.
Much like Gawker, Techdirt has been critical of Ayyadurai's claims and have repeatedly called him out on it. Ayyadurai has filed a lawsuit for 15 million dollars against Techdirt, specifically founder Mike Masnick, Leigh Beadon as well as Techdirt's parent company Floor64. The alleges stem from multiple articles dating back to 2014. The same lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan, Charles Harder, is involved.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mesnick's
"name provokes eye-rolling among many studio lawyers thanks to his frequently hostile attitude toward aggressive intellectual property actions. He was one of the noisiest antagonists toward the Stop Online Piracy Act a few years ago. He's also credited with coining the term, "The Streisand Effect," to describe the phenomenon of how attempts to censor information often lead to more awareness of the very information someone is trying to hide."
What will most likely come under scrutiny in the trial isn't whether or not Ayyadura invented email but whether or not Techdirt's language is defamatory enough to cause his reputation to be damaged, something that was essentially Gawker's unwritten mission statement. Masnick made a post yesterday, which appealed to its readers hearts and wallets, reiterating that "...this is not a fight about who invented email. This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like."
This is absolutely true. And while I don't condone unnecessarily caustic speech in journalism, especially since it throws all objectivity out the window which is an important pillar of journalism, it isn't a crime. What will need to be proven in court is whether or not the wording crossed the line into libelous territory. Ayyadura's complaint alleges just that.
Plaintiff hereby repeats and realleges each and every allegation set forth in paragraphs 1 through 54 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.
56. As described herein, the September 4, 2014 Article, the September 5, 2014 Article, and the November 6, 2016 Article arise to the level of defamation per se, in that they falsely state that Dr. Ayyadurai is “a fraud,” “fraudulently misrepresenting facts,” “fraudulently making claims,” making “blatantly fraudulent claims,” and a “fraudster,” thus falsely accusing Dr. Ayyadurai of a crime and causing prejudice to his personal and professional reputation and business.
Ayyaduraa's full complaint can be read here in all its legalese.