Well, let’s count the ways
I had known Peter Thiel as the Co-Founder of PayPal and the dude who invested in Facebook.
But my first real exposure to the billionaire came when I read his book Zero to One, in which he eloquently presented basic startup concepts like no one else could.
And then it happened.
Peter was exposed for financing Hulk Hogan’s libel lawsuit against Gawker Media, all because it once outed Peter for being gay.
A lot of ink has been spilled about this already.
As much as Gawker deserves retribution for its tabloid trash, Peter was roundly slammed for setting a dangerous precedent, since other thin-skinned, obscenely rich people could launch similar legal fusillades against small publications.
Some folks naturally jumped to Peter’s defense, citing how the media needs to be kept in check and how Gawker needs to be obliterated.
But these arguments are problematic.
First of all, Peter is using a sledgehammer against a tiny nail. Gawker Media consists of a network of blogs, including Gizmodo, Kotaku, and Lifehacker, many of which are benign.
It is Peter Thiel that needs to be kept in check.
By going nuclear on Gawker, Peter is putting the jobs of many innocent people at risk.
Next, if you consider a global perspective, it becomes clear that we need more press freedom, not less.
Silicon Valley has become a power center rivaling Wall Street, and countries around the world are trying to create their own Silicon Valleys.
Governments that are either authoritarian or corrupt (or both) do as they please, buying off the compliant and silencing those who resist.
Lawsuits are expensive
And even if we assume that the judges and juries are upright and the system is pure, fighting a lawsuit is a rich man’s game.
Often, what matters is not your innocence, but whether you have the resources to keep fighting. And sometimes, winning a lawsuit can be more expensive than settling.
Peter has put press freedom at risk, not just for those in the United States, but for people worldwide.
It is he that needs to be kept in check (which may be coming in the form of another billionaire). Not just for his actions against Gawker, but also for his belief that climate change is pseudoscience.
And for his support of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who also wants to destroy the press and cancel U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement.
It is for these reasons that I’ve lost respect for Peter Thiel.
Editing by Harsimran Julka
This post was originally published on Tech in Asia.