Gawker Tells Judge That #FairPay Twitter Hashtag Is "Inflammatory"

In figuring out how to inform former interns about a class action lawsuit, the digital media company is also fighting over Facebook friending, subreddits and Tumblr posts.
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Nick Denton

Gawker founder Nick Denton usually spends his time figuring out how to reach and engage readers. On Tuesday, though, the digital media company aimed to put some limits on how its former interns are being given news of a putative class action lawsuit that contends Gawker violated labor laws by failing to pay at least minimum wage.

Given that Gawker's former interns occupy a younger demographic, attorneys for the plaintiffs wish to explore newer, exciting channels in the typically drab notice process. The judge has ruled out contacting potential individuals who may wish to opt-into the lawsuit via XBox Live, but the judge is fine with alerting them through social media.

In the lawsuit brought by Aulistar Mark, Andrew Hudson and Hanchen Lu — interns who worked at Gawker blogs like Kotaku and i09 between 2008 and 2010 — Gawker has sent the judge a letter that responds to the plaintiffs' proposed social media plan.

Here are the highlights:

  • Gawker doesn't want to annoy its former interns by spamming them with repeated messages: "Where plaintiffs have identified a particular person, they should not be permitted to send a Facebook message to that person and a tweet and a LinkedIn invitation."
  • Not all hashtags are cool with Gawker. The media company wants a single general tweet about the lawsuit and if a hashtag is to be used, Gawker wants it to be #gawkerinternlawsuit. As for the no-go's, Gawker's lawyer Mark Batten writes, "The hashtags #fairpay and #livingwage are inflammatory, and the Court’s approval of those would suggest that the Court has a view about the merits of this lawsuit. And the use of #nickdenton is also inappropriate; Mr. Denton is not identified with this case, and his personal conduct is not at issue in the matter."
  • Gawker wants the plaintiffs to be careful on Reddit, not connecting this lawsuit with "unrelated controversies and political causes." Denton's company gives some examples. The plaintiffs shouldn't attempt to leverage the GamerGate controversy by posting in the subreddit "KotakuInAction," which Gawker says has expanded into general criticism of its gaming site. "Plaintiffs apparently would like notice of the lawsuit to be added to this 'munitions pile,' but there is no justification for doing so," states Gawker's letter. "The same is true of Plaintiffs’ request to post information about this lawsuit in the 'OccupyWallStreet,' 'LostGeneration,' and 'Progressive' subreddits."
  • Taking the meaning of "friends" quite literally, Gawker is fine with plaintiffs creating a Facebook page called GawkerInternLawsuit to disseminate notice, but draws the line at a more meaningful relationship between the lawyers and ex-interns. According to Gawker, "Plaintiffs’ counsel seek to represent collective members, but they are not proposing 'friendship' in any sense of the word, and permitting friend requests would be misleading."
  • Gawker is anti-blog — specifically anti-Tumblr — when it comes to notice. "Tumblr is a collection of blogs," it says. "Permitting Plaintiffs to create a blog is equivalent to their creating a website, and Plaintiffs already have been permitted to create two of those – GawkerInternLawsuit.com and GawkerClassAction.com. There is no need for a third."

Gawker is among many media companies fighting former interns in lawsuits, but we're not aware of any class notices that have raised this kind of discussion. Some of the lawsuits against NBCU, Conde Nast, ICM and Viacom have settled. A lawsuit against Fox, which resulted in summary judgment for the plaintiffs, is currently on appeal.

Read Gawker's full letter to the judge below.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner

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