Before the afterglow of a $315-million windfall AOL acquisition faded, Huffington Post was in the news again; this time for wrong reasons.
A prominent freelance writer and trade unionist and a group of bloggers have filed a class action suit against Arianna Huffington, the HuffPost and AOL for allegedly mistreating the unpaid writers who provided content to the site in its growth years.
The lawsuit demanding $105 million in claims was filed on Tuesday in New York federal court, following last month's acquisition of Huffington Post by AOL.
Freelancer Jonathan Tasini says in the complaint that he has contributed more than 250 articles for the Post on an unpaid basis. He said he stopped contributing following the AOL acquisition after it emerged that hundreds of writers who published articles on Huffington Post were not given a slice of the windfall amount at which the site was sold off.
Tasini said Huffington bloggers have essentially been turned into modern day slaves on Arianna Huffington's plantation.
According to the complaint, 9,000 writers contributed stories to the Huffington Post on an unpaid basis.If it were not for the labor of Plaintiff and the thousands of unpaid Class members on and for TheHuffingtonPost.com ... (the site) would not have been an attractive merger target and would have sold for at least $105 million less than the merger price of $315 million, according to the complaint.
Huffington Post, which was founded in 2005 by Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer, had initially banked on established writers but soon the strategy focused on hordes of bloggers who contributed popular articles, and the model became a huge success. All along, Huffington stressed that the writers who put out their content on Huffington Post gain in terms of wider readership and publicity.
The website has brushed off the lawsuit as baseless. Our bloggers utilise our platform to connect and ensure that their ideas and views are seen by as many people as possible. It's the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows – to broadcast their views to as wide an audience as possible, a statement by the website said.