Is Billionaire Peter Thiel’s Gawker feud bad news for Facebook?

peter thiel gawker litigation financing affect on facebook
Peter Theil at the Hy! Summit, Heisenberg Media
Fresh off the back of its recent trending topics controversy, Facebook is once again being scrutinized over its troubled relationship with the U.S. media thanks to the actions of one of its board members.

Billionaire entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is the man in question. Thiel was recently uncovered as the individual pulling the purse strings in Hulk Hogan’s successful lawsuit against Gawker Media.

Having admitted that he backed Hogan, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, to the tune of $10 million in legal bills, the usually secretive Thiel has thrust himself into the center of a heated debate.

The revelations have shifted the discussion to broader issues regarding the freedom of the press, and the nature of Thiel’s covert act of revenge committed through litigation financing.

A new question has also arisen, one that puts the emphasis squarely on the company that counts Thiel as a prominent board member. Facebook is now being asked to clarify its stance on Thiel’s actions.

The unwanted attention is clearly unwelcome to the social network, which has thus far refused to comment on the matter. Meanwhile, insiders at the company are claiming that Facebook cannot be held responsible for Thiel’s private actions, according to Recode.

Despite Thiel describing his own actions as “benevolent” and philanthropic, many believe that he was motivated by revenge. It is thought that Thiel’s aversion to Gawker began after it outed him in a typically invasive article that blurred the line between the public and personal.

The issue is therefore an extremely complicated one for Facebook. Although Gawker is a Facebook Live media partner, some members of the press are claiming that the feud has inadvertently aided the social network. Putting aside the mutual benefits the two companies gain from one another, this argument suggests that they remain competitors within the larger framework of the media industry. And now, a Facebook director on the warpath has managed to cripple that competitor.

Suffice to say that this does not bode well for the social network. Having just suffered a lengthy media trial over allegations of bias in its trending news feed — which coincidentally originated from a report by Gizmodo, a media outlet owned by Gawker — Facebook is now being embroiled in yet another debate regarding free speech. Let us not forget that this is the same media industry that Facebook has been incessantly courting for its own news-related ventures, among them its Instant Articles publishing feature, and the aforementioned Live video network.

Having gone to great lengths to champion its claimed unregulated approach to social media and news curation, where will Facebook stand on this matter?

It doesn’t help that Gawker is so reviled, not only within Silicon Valley (whose patrons it has repeatedly targeted), but even within the press fraternity itself. On the other hand, Thiel has had Facebook’s back from the start, and occupies a prominent position on its board as an early investor in the platform.

Even so, the social network’s backers aren’t immune to its founder’s wrath. As recently as February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg chided board member Marc Andreesseen in a public statement over his rash tweets regarding colonialism in India. Due to the sensitive nature of the proceedings, the assertion this time around may not be quite as public. Yet, once again, it will be a test for Zuckerberg’s diplomacy skills.

Movies & TV

Amazon's Lord of the Rings series gets an interactive map of Middle-earth

Amazon Studios is betting big on its Lord of the Rings prequel series, which has a multiseason commitment and a budget of more than $1 billion. The series' first season will arrive by 2021.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (February 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Social Media

Twitter keeps your direct messages, even years after you delete them

Twitter is keeping copies of direct messages sent through the social network even years after users delete them, according to security researcher Karan Saini who discovered an archive containing old DMs from deleted and suspended accounts.
Movies & TV

The best movies you’ll find on Hulu right now (February 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings. 
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own live video tool

Live video is coming to LinkedIn for businesses and individuals on the site. The livestreaming feature is launching in beta in the U.S. before rolling out to the entire community.