Technology

Daily Stormer founder 'should pay $14m' in damages, judge says

Neo-Nazis, alt-right, and white supremacists brandish torches during a night-time march Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Daily Stormer suffered a major backlash after right-wing rallies in Charlottesville in 2017

Neo-Nazi website publisher Andrew Anglin should pay $14m (£11.2m) in damages to a Jewish woman subjected to a "troll storm" at his urging, a US federal magistrate recommends.

Tanya Gersh said that Mr Anglin had published 30 articles on the Daily Stormer website about her, some of which had included contact information.

She and her family had then received more than 700 harassing messages.

The recommended damages still need to be approved by a district judge.

But magistrate Jeremiah Lynch said a default judgement should be entered against Mr Anglin, who failed to turn up for his hearings.

He also said "the atrocious conduct" directed at the family had not stopped - and recommended the court issue a permanent injunction ordering all of the Daily Stormer's articles urging action against them be removed, including all photographs.

Image copyright Kat Gebauer
Image caption Tanya Gersh's family were subjected to months of harassment

Mr Lynch said the high damages were warranted because of "the particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin's conduct".

The amount would both serve to punish him and and deter him from doing it again, he wrote.

US federal magistrates are high-ranking judges who can be delegated duties by the district judge - including making these kinds of recommendations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which helped Ms Gersh with her case, said the harassment had begun after she had agreed to help the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer sell a building.

Sherry Spencer had called Ms Gersh for advice on the building, as "one of the few Jewish residents" of the area, court filings say.

The building had become a potential protest site over her son's views.

Ms Gersh had suggested selling the building, making a donation, and disavowing her son's views - and agreed to act as the real estate agent for the sale when asked, her legal complaint said.

The deal fell through – and two weeks later, Ms Spencer wrote a since-deleted blog post accusing Ms Gersh of trying to threaten and extort her into selling the building and denouncing her son.

Mr Anglin's article on the Daily Stormer had called on his followers to "make your opinions known", the court papers said.

"Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda.

"This is very important.

"Calling these people up and/or sending them a quick message is very easy.

"It is very important that we make them feel the kind of pressure they are making us feel."

On top of the harassing phone calls, Mr Anglin attempted to organise a march on Ms Gersh's home, advertised with a photograph of her, her son and two other Jewish people superimposed on the front gate of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. The march never happened.

Ms Gersh said the attacks and threats on her life had stripped her of her sense of safety, which may never return.

She was plagued by anxiety in crowds, panic attacks, and was receiving trauma therapy, the SPLC said.

"I'm never going to be the same person that I was before Anglin and his troll army started to terrorise me," Ms Gersh said.

But she hoped her legal action could "change the world and make it a little bit better for others".

Anti-Semitic hate group

The Daily Stormer is considered a hate group by the SPLC.

The SPLC says the website takes its name from a Nazi-era propaganda sheet called Der Stürmer.

It is "dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism", the SPLC says, using conspiracy theories about "alleged Jewish world control and black-on-white crime".

And it is not the first time the site, or Mr Anglin, has encountered difficulties.

In June, Mr Anglin was ordered to pay $4.1m to an American Muslim radio personality whom he had falsely accused of terrorism. That was also a default judgement Mr Anglin did not respond to.

He has gone into hiding, according to US media reports.

After a series of controversies, the Daily Stormer is now accessible only on the "dark web" - effectively rendering it invisible to most internet users.

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In 2017, it denigrated Heather Heyer, a victim killed by a car that rammed crowds protesting against a far-right rally in Charlottesville.

The fallout was severe - its domain name was removed by GoDaddy and Google and was dropped by web protection service Cloudflare, leaving it vulnerable to DDoS attacks.

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