Final testimony and closing arguments were heard on Thursday and Friday in Hulk Hogan’s privacy lawsuit against Gawker for the tabloid site’s publication of secretly recorded video of him engaged in a sex act.
The video was published in 2012 along with an article examining public fascination with celebrity sex tapes. Hogan’s suit argued that his privacy was violated. Gawker argued that first amendment free press protections covered their publication of the video, claiming that Hogan’s sexual activity is not private because he has talked about it publicly.
At issue, essentially, was whether first amendment freedom of the press extends beyond that which is genuinely newsworthy to cover gossip, and if so, how far that protection goes.
Friday evening, the jury gave some answer to those questions by finding in Hogan’s favor.
Gawker has been ordered to pay Hogan $115 million. Intent to appeal has already been indicated.
Interestingly, some of the coverage of this case has been very different from coverage of other celebrities leaked nude images. For instance, in one article, Vice.com mocked Hogan’s claims of embarrassment and afforded legitimacy to the question of whether such a private moment might be in the public interest, even though Hogan has stated that the incident was filmed without his consent. Vice’s approach to the Fappening, however, was total condemnation of the hacker who obtained celebrity nudes, also without consent, and published them online. Vice has also criticized reddit.com for publication of nude images without the subject’s consent.
More interestingly, so has Gawker, but most interestingly of all, the site has gone so far as to condemn posting of photos of clothed people in public places. The same year Hogan’s sex tape was published, Gawker’s Jezebel blog was involved in an effort to get several subreddits shut down over such posts, and later, Gawker writer Adrian Chen cited morality in his choice to publish a reddit moderator’s identity in response to the controversy.
It seems that Gawker’s position on privacy issues varies depending on whether the violation in question is committed by the tabloid conglomerate’s own writers, or some other source.