Tech Industry

Jeff Bezos slams Peter Thiel's funding lawsuit against Gawker

Amazon CEO says at Code Conference that the billionaire shouldn't be using his fortune "to fund a lawsuit to kill Gawker."

Jeff Bezos criticizes Peter Thiel's involvement in the lawsuits against Gawker Media.

Jeff Bezos believes that billionaire investor and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is out of line for using his fortune to back lawsuits designed to cripple Gawker Media.

"I don't think a billionaire should be able to fund a lawsuit to kill Gawker," the Amazon CEO said Tuesday during a wide-ranging interview with Recode's Walt Mossberg at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "The best defense against speech you don't like is a thick skin. If you can't tolerate critics, then don't do anything new or interesting."

Bezos' comments come less than a week after Thiel admitted he was the bucks behind a defamation lawsuit that Terry Bollea -- better known as former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan -- brought against the online publication. Thiel reportedly paid roughly $10 million to back Hogan, who won more than $115 million from Gawker in a Florida jury trial in March.

Widespread speculation holds that the lawsuit was the result of longstanding animosity between Thiel and Nick Denton, Gawker Media's CEO. In 2007, Gawker attempted to out Thiel, who is gay, before he was open about his sexuality. Two years later, Thiel told PEHub that Gawker's now-defunct Valleywag was "the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda."

"Seek revenge and you dig two graves. One for yourself," Bezos said, bringing up a familiar proverb. "How do you want to spend your energy?"

On the subject of privacy, Bezos defended the amount of data the company collects on its customers, noting that the data is how the company crafts personalized suggestions. But he said transparency is important, which is why the site greets customers by name. "You know you're not anonymous on our site," he said.

On balancing customer privacy against national security needs, he said that Amazon was like-minded on the issue of protecting customer privacy with Apple, which earlier this year waged a public battle with the FBI over what kind of aid it would provide in hacking a terrorist's iPhone.

"When the bad guys get better, the good guys have to get better. I don't think it's going to be resolved," he said. "It's a cat and mouse game."

Other highlights:

On Amazon's new physical bookstores: He said he read articles criticizing the move that said "we should have named it Amazon Irony Books."

On competition with Netflix: "We don't compete with Netflix. I think people are going to subscribe to both."

On why he's sending rockets into space: "I want thousands of entrepreneurs doing amazing things in space."

On Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump: "It's not appropriate that Trump is trying to freeze or chill the media who is critiquing him."