After a sensational two-week trial, the verdict of high-profile court case Hogan vs Gawker has been reached, with a Florida jury awarding former wrestler Hulk Hogan $115m for having his privacy violated by celebrity news site Gawker after they published a sex tape featuring the wrestler.
Hogan called Gawker to court, presenting the case that the website, founded by Nick Denton, had violated his privacy by publishing a video that showed him having sex with a woman who was married to his friend, Bubba 'The Love Sponge' Clem. The video was posted on the site in 2012, with Hogan's lawyers claiming that Gawker did not contact him or the woman in the video before the video was published.
The defense argued that while the actions of former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio and founder Nick Denton might have been distasteful, the concept of freedom of the press was more important to uphold.
The jury, who spent less than six hours mulling over the case, ruled against the freedom of press argument, ruling that Gawker had indeed violated Hogan’s privacy by publishing the video, and awarding Hogan $115m in compensation, a sum that the website will be hard-pushed to bounce back from.
"This is not only his victory today, but also anyone else who's been victimised by tabloid journalism," Hogan's lawyer David Houston said outside the courtroom.
The case has acquired mass media attention, pitting freedom of the press against a the privacy rights of a celebrity, and raising the questions among the industry as to the future of gossip news sites.
Founder of Q.Digital Scott Gatz told The Drum: "Gawker is already in the midst of significant change. Last year, their outing of the Conde Nast CFO led many to say they Gawker reached a new low and led to Nick admitting that change was necessary. One lawsuit will not stop Gawker or the media at large from writing stories or posting sex tapes, especially in cases of hypocrisy. However, I think Gawker will make sure that its editors think twice--not only about what the content is but the who and the why, too.”