Lawsuits present challenge for neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site

Daily Stormer's growing legal challenges come at a time of isolation and internal disarray in the US far right.

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    Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin has suffered a series of legal challenges in the wake of deadly Charlottesville rally [File: Michael Dwyer/AP]
    Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin has suffered a series of legal challenges in the wake of deadly Charlottesville rally [File: Michael Dwyer/AP]

    A slew of lawsuits has compounded problems for the Daily Stormer, a widely read neo-Nazi website known for its violent rhetoric and vocal support for US President Donald Trump.

    Along with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, former American University (AU) student Taylor Dumpson filed a federal lawsuit against Andrew Anglin, the Daily Stormer's publisher, for allegedly launching a storm of hate and threats online.

    The 71-page lawsuit is the third high-profile suit against Anglin to be filed since April 2017, when Montana-based realtor Tanya Gersh and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) took Anglin to court for sparking a flurry of online hate.

    Dumpson's suit accuses Anglin of coordinating a "troll storm" of racist hate that left Dumpson "fearing for her safety" at a time when far-right hate incidents were soaring on university campuses across the United States.

    Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee, explained that her organisation hopes to "send a strong message to white supremacists and the alt-right" with the lawsuit. 

    "[Dumpson] refuses to cower in fear and is standing up and pushing back because no person should be subject to this kind of racial harassment and treatment," she told Al Jazeera by telephone. 

    "Across the US, we are seeing a spike in vicious hate crimes targeting racial minorities, and young people are especially vulnerable."

    In May 2017, unknown assailants hanged bananas and nooses with racist messages on AU's campus the day after Dumpson's inauguration as the first black female president of the student government.

    She received a barrage of hateful messages following Anglin's publication of an article on the Daily Stormer mocking Dumpson's concerns after the incident.

    "No one feels safe around bananas," Anglin wrote sarcastically. "Some racists have taken to calling this African Queen 'Dumpy Dumpson'."

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    The messages she received after Anglin's post included claims that black people should move to Africa, images of people performing Nazi salutes and other racist content.

    The lawsuit demands monetary compensation and asks the court to mandate that Anglin attend "anti-racism and anti-sexism training".

    Growing backlash

    Founded in 2013, the Daily Stomer's name is a nod to the German Nazi-era publication Der Sturmer and includes a section titled "the Jewish problem".

    The website issued marching orders to participants of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017.

    That rally brought white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis from across the country to protest Charlottesville's decision to remove a Confederate monument.

    Violence erupted when far-rightists clashed with community members, anti-fascists and anti-racist activists throughout the city.

    By the end of the day, James Alex Fields Jr, who had been photographed marching with neo-Nazis earlier in the day, allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racists, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

    Heyer was one of at least 18 people killed by white supremacists in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

    Following the fatal rally, white supremacists and neo-Nazis endured a wave of backlash, including being removed from social media sites and having their websites removed by web-hosting service providers.

    Daily Stormer was no exception.

    Forced into dark web at times

    After Charlottesville, GoDaddy terminated its web-hosting services for Daily Stormer, citing an article mocking Heyer's death and referring to her as a "fat skank".

    Daily Stormer has since been booted from several web-hosting services, forcing it to operate in the dark web at times.

    Meanwhile, Anglin, whose unknown whereabouts are a focal point in the suit filed by Gersh and the SPLC, was hit with more legal challenges.

    After Anglin wrote a post accusing Gersh, who is Jewish, of "extorting" leading alt-right figure Richard Spencer's mother, she received numerous threats and anti-Semitic messages. The alt-right refers to a loosely knit coalition of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

    On Thursday, a US magistrate judge recommended that Gersh's suit against Anglin be allowed to move forward following the defendant's request to have the case dismissed. 

    Speaking to Al Jazeera by email, Marc Randazza, one of Anglin's lawyers in that suit, said: "We respectfully disagree with the magistrate's legal analysis, and we intend to present an objection to the judge." 

    According to the SPLC, the magistrate judge's recommendation must still be reviewed by US District Judge Dana Christensen, who will make a final decision on whether the suit will proceed. 

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    In August 2017, Muslim American comedian and writer Dean Obeidallah filed a lawsuit against Anglin for falsely describing him as the "mastermind" of a deadly bombing in the UK.

    'Not tolerated in our democracy'

    Daily Stormer is considered one of the largest neo-Nazi websites in the US and an influential platform for the alt-right.

    The alt-right became a household name because of its vocal support for Trump's presidential campaign and electoral victory.

    The movement was energised by Trump's election, largely owing to his anti-immigrant rhetoric, promises to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and efforts to ban travellers from Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

    Amid growing internal rifts, the US far right has struggled to maintain its online platforms, including those used for fundraising.

    Since Charlottesville, the alt-right has been unable to produce similar numbers of people in the streets, rendering it mostly confined to the ever-shrinking fringes of the internet.

    On Thursday, alt-right leader Richard Spencer's website was pulled by GoDaddy less than two weeks after the Lawyers' Committee wrote a letter to the web-hosting service asking it to remove the website.

    "[This move] sent a message to Richard Spencer and his disciples, that the kind of violence they seek to incite through the alt-right platform will not be tolerated in our modern democracy," Clarke of the Lawyers' Committee said.

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    Along with the growing number of lawsuits targeting influential figures in the US far right, including suits against Spencer and Anglin, the far-right movement has grown increasingly isolated.

    Jared Holt, a researcher for the Right-Wing Watch website, explained that the loss of online platforms and escalating legal dilemmas have put "right-wing extremists on their heels". 

    "These activists are still working hard to influence politics and shift discourse into the fringe, but their work is getting much more difficult," he told Al Jazeera. 

    "Although the lawsuits have begun to disarm many prominent extremists, they do not erase the far-right audience, which will seek new leaders in the absence of people like Spencer and Anglin." 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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