Lawyer Charles Harder is representing a client in a libel case against Techdirt. (Chris O'Meara / AP)

An eclectic group is financially backing TechDirt, a tech news site being sued for libel by the same lawyer who helped take down Gawker.

Who's involved: The Charles Koch Foundation, Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark's CraigConnects, Union Square Ventures, WordPress parent Automattic and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. The financial support is worth more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Why this matters: Their backing comes as some news organizations shy away from writing about a powerful or well-resourced person out of fear of a lawsuit — which some have called the Gawker Effect. This helps to chart a path for the types of publishers that can't survive the kind of libel suits that are becoming more common in the post-Gawker age.

The details: The parent company for Techdirt is facing a libel suit filed by a man who claims he invented email, who is represented by the same lawyer who led the case that resulted in Gawker Media's bankruptcy. The same person settled with Gawker in 2016. Techdirt's founder, Mike Masnick, has said that the lawsuit has "already taken a massive toll on us and our ability to function and report." To help the Techdirt weather the lawsuit, the group of philanthropies, companies and private individuals is funding a year of coverage on the site devoted to free speech issues.

Techdirt said in a statement that the case has highlighted ways in which there might be a lack of understanding among members of the public about free speech protections, sparking the new effort. Jesse Blumenthal, who leads tech initiatives at the Charles Koch Institute, said that "the way in which Techdirt has responded to this is by doubling down on their coverage of free speech issues, and I think that really has institutional and scalable effects."

Our thought bubble: This sends a message that there are wealthy Americans or their proxies willing to push back on a trend toward litigation over negative news stories driven by some of their peers. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, for example, funded the lawsuit against Gawker; and VC Vinod Khosla recently said, per Recode, that he'd be open to paying for a lawsuit if a media outlet offended him.

Go deeper

Quibi says it's shutting down

Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Quibi, the mobile-only video subscription streaming service, is shutting down, the company announced Wednesday. The company said the decision was made to preserve shareholder equity.

Why it matters: Quibi had struggled to hit its subscriber growth targets amid the global pandemic. The app launched six months ago.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.
3 hours ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair talks USA vs. Google

The Justice Department filed a 63-page antitrust lawsuit against Google related to the tech giant's search and advertising business. This comes just weeks after the House subcommittee on antitrust issued its own scathing report on Google and other Big Tech companies, arguing they've become digital monopolies.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, about Google, the DOJ's lawsuit and Congress' next move.