Nick Denton certainly thinks so.
After a Florida jury awarded Hulk Hogan over $100 million in damages for Gawker posting a sex tape of the wrestler, Gawker has been hit with more lawsuits, all of which involve Hogan’s attorney, Charles Harder. One of them was filed on behalf of Shiva Ayyadurai, whose claim to have invented email has been challenged by several outlets, including The Washington Post and Gawker—but only Gawker was sued. More strangely, Harder and Hogan recently dropped the claim of “negligent infliction of emotional distress,” the only claim that Gawker’s insurance company was required to pay for the company’s defense. Larry Geenen, a risk management consultant, told The New York Times that this was seemingly unprecedented: “I’ve never had a situation where the plaintiff intentionally took out the claim involving the insurance company.”
One explanation for Harder’s ubiquitous involvement is simply that he’s proven that it’s possible to win lawsuits against the website and that juries are predisposed to dislike it. But the fact that Harder is targeting claims where Gawker, not its insurance company, is on the hook suggests something more nefarious is going on. Denton suspects Silicon Valley is involved, telling the Times, “My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley, but that’s nothing really more than a hunch. If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases.”
Update: Forbes reports that Peter Thiel funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker. In 2009, Thiel described Gawker’s now-shuttered technology site ValleyWag as “the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”