For years, Techdirt has been one of the most vital journalism outlets on the internet for covering issues that touch on free speech, press freedom, censorship, and the First Amendment.
Now, Techdirt is in its own First Amendment battle for its life, and we are proud to support Techdirt’s new initiative to draw attention to the threats news organizations face when reporting on powerful individuals who attempt to stifle criticism.
Techdirt is currently facing a $15 million lawsuit brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, a current candidate for Senator in Massachusetts who claims to have invented email, for casting suspicion on Ayyaduri’s claims. Ayyadurai is being represented by Harder Mirell and Abrams, the same law firm which was reportedly funded by billionaire Peter Thiel in its suits that bankrupted Gawker. (Watch Techdirt founder Mike Masnick’s powerful and emotional speech on how the lawsuit has had a chilling effect on Techdirt’s journalism.)
While we believe Techdirt is completely protected by the First Amendment for its posts critical of Ayyadurai and will ultimately win in court, a lawsuit like this represents an existential threat to all independent media organizations. Legal fees alone are often enough to cripple such organizations, even if they ultimately prevail.
These types of lawsuits—known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP)—have been on the rise in the past several years. Besides several suits against Gawker, Mother Jones faced dangerous legal action from billionaire Frank Vandersloot in 2013 for speech protected by the First Amendment, and even President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail last year that he believed it should be easier for powerful individuals to file such suits against newspapers that report critically on their activities.
With support from Craig Newmark’s CraigConnects and Union Square Ventures, Freedom of the Press Foundation is committing $70,000 in funding to partner with Techdirt to report on chilling lawsuits that threaten the free speech of news organizations and to advocate for anti-SLAPP laws that can help protect news outlets from these type of lawsuits nationwide. Separately, Techdirt has received additional commitments from several other prominent foundations and companies from across the political spectrum to strengthen its coverage on these issues, totaling at least $250,000.
Please go here to donate to Techdirt’s Survival Fund and send a message that wealthy individuals shouldn’t be able to destroy a news organization that is exercising its constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.