Former Huff blogger: Arianna is creating 'a Third World class of creative people'

Arianna Huffington has long been criticized for the unpaid work of the thousands of bloggers whose content made her site a must-click, and valuable enough to be acquired by AOL for $315 million in February. Now, the complaints are being taken from the blogosphere to the courtroom.

Jonathan Tasini is the lead plaintiff in the case against Huffington and AOL. Tasini is a journalist who contributed blog entries to Huffington Post from December 2005 until February 10, 2011, just three days before the site's sale.

Tasini calls his group the Huffington Post Justice Campaign, and officially filed the suit April 12 in new York. He said he plans to involve the Newspaper Guild, which has called for a boycott of the Huffington Post, as well as the National Writers Union and individual bloggers in the lawsuit. The suit calls for about $105 million in damages.

"Arianna Huffington is pursuing the Wal-Martization of creative content and a Third World class of creative people," Tasini said in a press release. "Actually, that is unfair to Wal-Mart because at least Wal-Mart pays its workers something for the value those workers create. In Arianna Huffington's business model, economic gain is only reserved for her. Everyone else, apparently, is expected to work for free regardless of the value they create. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day."

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller has also been vocally against Huffington and her site, comparing her business practices to "Somali piracy." Huffington pushed back at Keller, saying that there's no evidence that her site has damaged journalism.

The Huffington Post lists more than 80 reporters and editors on its "About Us" page, which are paid positions.

Tasini was also the lead plaintiff in The New York Times v. Tasini, a suit over whether the newspaper should have to license work from freelancers for use online. Tasini won the lawsuit.

With the exception of syndication deals that some bloggers say have not been met, however, unpaid contributors to Huffington Post were never offered any payment other than prestige and pageviews. Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz confirmed this in a statement emailed to CNET, calling the lawsuit "completely baseless."

"Our bloggers utilize our platform to connect and ensure that their ideas and views are seen by as many people as possible," Ruiz wrote. "It's the same reason hundreds of people go on TV shows--to broadcast their views to as wide an audience as possible."

Editor's note: Kase Wickman is a former blogger for the Huffington Post.

Image via WikiMedia Commons.