When the online blog Gawker posted an excerpt of a secretly filmed sex tape of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, it ignited a high stakes legal battle that pitted privacy rights against the First Amendment.
The staggering verdict in Bollea v. Gawker Media, a decision that bankrupted Gawker and its founder, is the subject of a new Netflix original documentary by Brian Knappenberger, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press. Set against the backdrop of a contentious presidential election, the trial exposed a cast of shadowy figures working to influence the case's outcome, including Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Trump transition team appointee who quietly bankrolled Bollea's lawsuit.
More than a year later, after the verdict ruled in Bollea's favor and put Gawker out of business, the chilling effect is clear. As Donald Trump makes journalists his primary target on social media and wealthy businessmen continue to purchase newspapers across the country, the film explores what happens when American billionaires can subvert the First Amendment to silence their critics. Is the free press—and the health of our democracy—under threat?
On June 22, New America NYC screened of Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press followed by a conversation with Gawker's editors and other media and legal experts on the perils—and the responsibilities—of the free press in an age of alternative facts.
PARTICIPANTSBrian Knappenberger @knappB
Director and Executive Producer, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Elizabeth Spiers @espiers
Founder, The Insurrection
Founding Editor, Gawker
John Cook @johnjcook
Executive Editor, Special Projects, Gizmodo Media Group
Former Executive Editor, Gawker Media
Andrew McLaughlin @McAndrew
Chairman, Access Now
Former Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States
Future Tense Fellow, New America
Kai Wright @kai_wright
Editor and Host, Narrative Unit, WNYC