Intent Matters

Reading last night about #DeleteUber and this morning an Esquire profile/interview with AJ Daulerio, the editor at the center of The Gawker-Hulk Hogan lawsuit. Thinking about both, and how both Uber and Gawker suffer from a history of intent issues.

But first ... 

A woman with unimpeachable values and no hint of a rap-sheet walks into a grocery store with four-year-old twins who are in the midst of a world-class meltdown. Her boss is blowing up her inbox about a client presentation tomorrow. And she's in a rush to call her brother to hear all about the new girl he's bringing home for Thanksgiving. Too harried to have grabbed a cart on the way in, her arms quickly and unexpectedly pile up as she makes her way down the aisles.

She makes it out alive. (we always do)

As she reaches in her pocket for her car keys she finds a pack of gum she absentmindedly put there when she ran out of hands. Rather than dragging the kids back in the store to pay for the gum, she heads home.

Technically, this woman stole a pack of gum. But would any sane person argue she needs to be punished? Of course not, because intent matters. She didn't intend to steal the gum. And she's not a criminal by nature. Lastly, given the circumstances it's understandable how she made a mistake.

For those of you who don't know, the #DeleteUber movement is a public reaction to / condemnation of Uber based on this tweet in the midst of the taxi strike at JFK:

After a swift avalanche of backlash, Uber tried walking it back, basically blaming the misunderstanding on sloppy messaging. Unfortunately for Uber, these missteps are becoming far too common. Fair or not. That's not the point of this; or maybe that's exactly the point.

And then there's the Gawker-Hogan lawsuit, which you can read all about here but essentially:

Terry Gene Bollea, known professionally as Hulk Hogan, sued Gawker Media, publisher of the Gawker website, and several Gawker employees and Gawker-affiliated entities,[2] for posting portions of a sex tape of Bollea with Heather Clem, at that time the wife of radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Bollea's claims included invasion of privacy, infringement of personality rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Prior to trial, Hogan's lawyers claimed that the privacy of many Americans was at stake while Gawker's lawyers asserted that the case could hurt freedom of the press in the United States.[4][5]

In March 2016, the jury found Gawker Media liable and awarded Bollea $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.[7][8] 

The debate over this case is firmly rooted in nuanced and complicated 1st Amendment issues; many of which are of great merit and will / should be debated vigorously. Truthfully, though, most people don't buy Gawker, Nick Denton or Daulerio as 1st Amendment crusaders. Rather, they have a history of recklessly ruining people's lives for sport and profit. And bragging about it. And perhaps nothing is more troubling than this widely-reported and utterly-horrible incident reported from a deposition:

All this to say, when you do bad stuff people will judge you on your intent, which is largely based on your history of character. Just think about that, whether you're an individual or company.