For too long, law enforcement and the courts have refused to acknowledge the real-world damage that can be done by online hate, but that attitude seems to be turning around. In just the past few months, one internet “troll” has been ordered to pay a total of more than $20 million to three different targets of his online vitriol.
Andrew Anglin is the publisher of a neo-Nazi website called The Daily Stormer that has targeted (among others) a black female college student, a Jewish real estate agent, and an Arab-American comedian. In June, the comedian won a $4.1 million lawsuit against Anglin, and shortly after that, Anglin was ordered to pay the real estate agent $14 million.
The most recent award against Anglin is for $725,000 for targeting Taylor Dumpson, the first African American female student body president of American University. The award includes $500,000 as punishment for his actions, plus $124,000 in legal fees and costs, and $101,000 to compensate Dumpson for the damage she suffered.
Dumpson was the target of racist hate and vitriol from the day she was sworn in as student body president of American University, back in May of 2017, when bananas hanging from nooses were found all over campus. Many of the bananas had messages written on them, including references to her predominantly black sorority, and to a gorilla that was killed at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016.
After news outlets reported on the bananas in nooses around the American University campus, Anglin published Dumpson’s personal information on The Daily Stormer and allegedly encouraged harassment against her. Two of Anglin’s followers, Brian Ade and Evan McCarty, responded to Anglin’s call by allegedly harassing Dumpson online with racist and demeaning messages and threats.
In her complaint, Dumpson said she was constantly afraid for her safety and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the ill will that flowed towards her from Anglin and his followers, Dumpson graduated from American University and is currently attending law school.
In addition to suing Anglin, his publication, and Moonbase Holdings, which provides Anglin and The Daily Stormer with funding, the lawsuit also named Ade and McCarty as defendants. McCarty agreed to settle the claims against him. Among other things, McCarty agreed to apologize to Dumpson, renounce white supremacy, attend therapy, and help civil rights groups fight hate and bigotry. Dumpson said she hoped the settlement would send a message to other white supremacists.
Whether Ade or Anglin received that message has yet to be determined. Despite being ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars as a result of his negative online activities, Anglin’s previous targets who won awards against him say they have yet to receive a dime from him. However, at least one victim said the hateful things about them were removed from The Daily Stormer’s website.
That said, none of the defendants, including Anglin, appeared in court, and court papers had no attorneys listed to represent Moonbase Holdings. However, Dumpson’s attorney, Kristen Clarke, still cheered the award as a historic ruling that recognized the real-world damage that could be inflicted by things said and done online.
You can view the complaint in Dumpson’s lawsuit against Anglin and his followers here.
Lubin Austermuehle’s defamation and slander lawyers near Naperville and Elmhurst have more than three decades of experience helping business clients unravel the complexities of Illinois and out-of-state defamation, libel and slander laws. We assist businesses and owners who are the victims of defamatory and slanderous attacks on their businesses and reputations.
You can read the Court’s entire opinion here.
Our DuPage County defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to post on Facebook, Yelp and other websites information that criticizes businesses and addresses matters of public concern. You can view a federal court decision where we prevailed in a libel per se claim asserting the innocent infringer defense here. Here you can find an arbitration decision where we successfully defended our client’s right to post negative opinions on YouTube about a used car dealer. We recently required a defendant who publicized an allegedly false lawsuit concerning our client to provide an apology and full retraction as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16,000,000.00 defamation per se suit in federal district court.
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