Silicon Valley billionaire takes aim at Gawker

New York (AFP) –


Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has confirmed he is funding a lawsuit against Gawker Media, saying he wants to fight the gossip news site's "bullying" tactics.

Thiel told the New York Times late Wednesday he has provided around $10 million for the litigation by former wrestler Hulk Hogan, who sued Gawker for releasing a sex tape featuring Hogan and a friend's wife.

Thiel acknowledged he is working with lawyers to find and help "victims" of Gawker Media, whose Valleywag site in 2007 revealed he is homosexual.

"It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence," Thiel told the newspaper.

"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."

Thiel said Gawker's reports had been "very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted" and added: "I thought it was worth fighting back."

Thiel said he was hoping to help people who have been hurt by Gawker but lack the resources he has.

"I can defend myself," he was quoted as saying.

"Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can't defend themselves."

He noted that Hogan, who is a millionaire, "didn't quite have the resources to do this alone."

He told the newspaper he hired a legal team several years ago to look for cases against Gawker and that others are in the works.

A jury has ordered Gawker to pay Hogan $140 million. The company is appealing.

The Hogan trial in the Florida city of St. Petersburg has been closely watched by legal experts for its implications for privacy and free expression online.

German-born Thiel was a founder of the online payments firm PayPal, and served as its CEO before it was sold to eBay. He was also an early investor in Facebook and has been active in venture investing in Silicon Valley.

He operates his own foundation and has created a fellowship that offers funding to young adults who drop out of college to form their own enterprise.

According to a Forbes ranking of global billionaires, Thiel, 48, has a net worth of some $2.7 billion, with stakes in Silicon Valley data firm Palantir and home-sharing service Airbnb.