The company Gawker Media has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a judge ruled in favor of Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, over a sex tape released without his consent in 2007. It’s the latest in a long running saga that has seen both sides sue each other.
What it demonstrates is that the value of online reputation is crucial to all, and if that pillar is threatened it can lead to nasty legal consequences. This article is going to go into the Gawker bankruptcy, online reputation, and what ordinary businesses can take away from it.
To begin with, it’s important to note what happened. Gawker lost its $140.1 million legal case against Hulk Hogan. After Hogan was found, in a video, to have had sex with the wife of his friend Bubba the Love Sponge, Gawker published the video because they believed it was in the public interest.
Following many years of legal challenges, the judge ruled out a legal challenge to the ruling from Gawker, thus ending the case in favor of Hogan.
In order to prevent Hogan from actually receiving any of Gawker’s assets, they have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will sell Gawker Media to the Ziff Davis media company. If a Hogan legal challenge fails, it’s likely that he will receive none of the $140 million owed to him.
How Has This Impacted Online Reputation?
The entire case surrounds Hogan’s online reputation. He claimed that the video stopped him from receiving work, particularly with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He claims that it has led to him losing endorsements, sponsorships, and millions of dollars in pay.
People value trust in this day and age, and the release of the video contradicted Hogan’s view of being a family-friendly trustworthy individual. Granted, he was an untrustworthy individual because this video would have never existed in the first place, but the point is that it only made it into the public eye because of Gawker’s journalistic efforts.
But what about Gawker’s online reputation?
Supporters of Gawker say that they are fighting for free speech. If anything, their efforts have been applauded by the general public. It’s likely one of the reasons why Ziff Davis has decided to buy the brand. It now has a positive reputation.
What Can You Take Away from this Case?
One of the myths about online reputation management is that it only exists in a bubble. It doesn’t exist in the real world. This case has put an end to that because both Gawker and Hogan have crossed the online world into the offline world.
What you can take away from that is that if your online reputation is wrongly threatened online, you can use the mechanisms of the offline world to defend yourself. If someone libels you, you don’t have to sit there and take it. You have the right to defend yourself, even if it means court action.
But if anything it demonstrates how people have changed over the years.
Online reputation is about being transparent and about being true to your own values. Hogan was always going to suffer because, regardless of whether that tape should have been released, he demonstrated himself to be a cheat. He had relations with the wife of his best friend, and people are not going to stand for that.
So is legal action the answer when your online reputation is in the gutter?
It has to be an option if you are going to utilize any form of deterrent against people who are going to attempt to smear your good name. This happens more often than you might think. It’s not uncommon for businesses to attempt to take their competitors down through harming their online reputation.
What Happens Next?
In regards to the Gawker case, the next step will be an injunction from Hogan to attempt to stop the bankruptcy of Gawker. This would allow him to claim at least some of the $140 million he has been awarded by the judge. However, the sale to Ziff Davis is likely to go through, and Davis will be paying a smaller price than the brand is actually worth.
Despite Gawker being taken down to its knees, this case demonstrates that strong brands people know will always survive even the harshest of events.
What are your views on the Gawker case? Do you agree with the outcome or do you think it should have been handled differently?