Black student sues neo-Nazi site founder over ‘troll storm’
The first black woman to serve as American University’s student government president has sued a neo-Nazi website’s publisher, accusing him of orchestrating an online harassment campaign against her.
Taylor Dumpson’s federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Washington, says Andrew Anglin directed The Daily Stormer’s readers to “troll storm” her with a barrage of racist and demeaning messages on social media.
Authorities began investigating last May after someone hung bananas with hateful messages from nooses on the university’s campus a day after Dumpson’s inauguration. Dumpson has feared for her safety since Anglin posted an article about the incident, including links to her Facebook page and the American University Student Government’s Twitter page, her suit says.
The case is at least the third federal lawsuit filed against Anglin by a target of his trolling campaigns. Anglin didn’t immediately respond to an email Tuesday seeking comment on Dumpson’s suit, which was filed by attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Kristen Clarke, the group’s president and executive director, said the lawsuit is a response to a recent spike in “hate activity” on college campuses.
“This lawsuit sends a strong signal to those who perpetrate hate and promote white supremacy that there are victims who will not cower and who will instead stand up and take action to protect their rights,” she said in an email Tuesday.
The suit names two other people as defendants and accuses them of sending “hateful, intimidating, and harassing” Twitter messages to Dumpson after Anglin’s post.
Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. It has struggled to stay online over the past year. Domain name registration companies Google and GoDaddy yanked the site’s web address after Anglin published a post mocking a woman killed in a deadly car attack at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August.
Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh sued Anglin last April, claiming anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information. In a string of posts, Anglin accused Gersh and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah sued Anglin in Ohio last August. His federal suit says Anglin falsely labeled him as the “mastermind” behind a deadly bombing at a concert in England.
Gersh’s suit accuses Anglin of invading her privacy, intentionally inflicting “emotional distress” and violating a Montana anti-intimidation law.
Anglin’s lawyers have asked a federal judge in Montana to dismiss her suit, arguing he had a constitutional right to express his “political speech” about Gersh and isn’t liable for his readers’ words or actions. Gersh’s attorneys countered that the First Amendment doesn’t protect Anglin’s “coordinated, online attack” on her family.
Dumpson’s suit says she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and “feels constantly afraid and on edge,” terrified to leave her home at night.
“This fear did disrupt and continues to disrupt Ms. Dumpson’s daily life. The context of the physical hate crime on campus amplifies the severity of the trolling,” the suit says.
Dumpson’s 71-page suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and asks the court to rule that the defendants violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 and the D.C. Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1989. It also asks the court to bar the defendants from making any reference to Dumpson in any internet posts or tweets and to require them to get “anti-racism and anti-sexism training.”