LAWRENCE — A Florida jury has awarded professional-wrestling star Hulk Hogan $115 million in his suit against Gawker, which alleged that the site infringed his right to privacy by posting a snippet of a secretly recorded sex tape featuring Hogan and a friend’s wife. This week, the jury added $25 million in punitive damages, and Gawker has announced it will appeal. Jonathan Peters, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and an expert in First Amendment law, is available to speak with media covering the case.
It is not clear how much of the award, if any, Gawker ultimately will be required to pay, but the case has galvanized people concerned by the nonconsensual disclosure of private information and those concerned by public figures’ efforts to control information about themselves. Peters can discuss the case and verdict, their First Amendment implications and related topics.
“The verdicts may look like a running leg drop on Gawker, but I’d say the site will win the appeal or at least get the award reduced quite a bit,” Peters said. “Jurors are not always great at soberly evaluating whether something is a matter of legitimate concern. They often react emotionally to the information at issue and put themselves or their loved ones in the plaintiff's position—and in doing so the hard work of First Amendment analysis sometimes takes a back seat, as it might have here.”
Peters teaches a course in First Amendment law, and he conducts research in media law and policy with an emphasis in Internet governance and digital privacy. He has affiliate research positions in the KU Information &Telecommunication Technology Center and the KU Surveillance Studies Research Center. Peters is an attorney and the press freedom correspondent for the Columbia Journalism Review, and previously he blogged about free speech for the Harvard Law & Policy Review. He has written on legal issues for Esquire, The Atlantic, Slate, Wired, The Nation and Sports Illustrated. Peters is also the First Amendment chair of the American Bar Association’s Civil Rights Litigation Committee.
To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.