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Gawker founder says Facebook should be held accountable for bullying

Nick Denton
Lauren Alperstein | CNBC
Nick Denton

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton acknowledges that his websites have to be held responsible what what they publish. He thinks the same should be true of much larger platforms like Facebook.

"There are bullying scandals everyday of the week," Denton said Thursday at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "The barriers aren't there."

Denton was a late addition to the Code agenda, agreeing to make an appearance after news surfaced that billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel was funding lawsuits against Gawker.

Pending appeal, Gawker will have to pay about $140 million to Terry Bollea, known as Hulk Hogan, for posting a sex tape of the former pro wrestler in 2012.

Denton said he doesn't regret publishing the Hogan tape, though there are harmful stories he says Gawker and its related sites shouldn't have run over the years. But he says Facebook and other social networks like Kik should be scrutinized for content that is often more damaging.

As platforms, those companies get more flexibility because they're sites for others to publish material and aren't publishers themselves.

And, by the way, Thiel is a Facebook board member.

Recode executive editor Kara Swisher, who conducted the interview, said she'd invited venture capitalist Keith Rabois, a friend of Thiel's and open critic of Denton, to join them on stage. He couldn't make it because of a Reddit board meeting, Swisher said.

Swisher noted the irony of his supporting Reddit, a site and platform that's known for allowing bullying.

"The platforms use safe harbor provisions," Denton said. "People put up offensive stuff, pedophile porn on Reddit. They say it's nothing to do with us, we're a platform."

Thiel said he's funded lawsuits against Gawker as a form of philanthropy because of all the damage the publisher has done to his friends and the tech community.

Thiel himself was famously outed as gay in a 2007 blog post from Valleywag, the former tech publication owned by Gawker.

The ruling against Gawker could very well put it out of business. Denton said the company is looking at "all possible outcomes" and has hired Mark Patricof, a banker at the firm Houlihan Lokey, as a financial adviser.

"After all the news last week and Peter Thiel's appearance from backstage in this story, we got a whole bunch of inbound interest," Denton said, without elaborating.

For more coverage of the Code Conference, click here.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.