Advertisement

Neo-Nazi to pay more than $18 million to internet trolling victim: judge

Click to play video: 'Canada adds far-right, neo-Nazi groups to terror list' Canada adds far-right, neo-Nazi groups to terror list
WATCH: For the first time, Canada added two right-wing extremist groups to its list of outlawed terror organizations in June 2019 – Jun 26, 2019

The publisher of a neo-Nazi website should have to pay the victim of an internet trolling campaign more than US$14 million (CAD$18.3 million) and remove all posts that encouraged his readers to contact the Montana real estate agent, a magistrate judge recommended on Monday.

WATCH: April 24, 2018 — 2017 an all-time high for anti-Semitic acts in Canada

Click to play video: '2017 an all-time high for anti-Semitic acts in Canada' 2017 an all-time high for anti-Semitic acts in Canada
2017 an all-time high for anti-Semitic acts in Canada – Apr 24, 2018

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch called The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin’s behaviour reprehensible and atrocious in telling his internet followers to unleash a “troll storm” on Tanya Gersh, her husband and her 12-year-old son in 2016.

Story continues below advertisement

The magistrate judge doesn’t have the final word in the case. His findings and recommendations must be approved by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to take effect.

Gersh, whom Anglin accused of trying to run white nationalist Richard Spencer’s mother out of the mountain resort community of Whitefish, Mont., said her family received hundreds of threatening, harassing and anti-Semitic messages. She sued Anglin, who argued unsuccessfully through his attorneys that his writings were protected by the First Amendment.

READ MORE: Almost half of young Canadians have been harassed on social media, reports poll

Anglin, who lives outside the U.S., was found in default when he didn’t show up for a deposition scheduled in April. His attorneys withdrew from the case when he failed to appear.

Lynch said that Gersh deserves $10 million in punitive damages, the maximum amount in punitive damages allowed under Montana law, because of the “particularly egregious and reprehensible nature of Anglin’s conduct.” He also said she should be awarded $4 million more for lost earnings and pain and suffering.

WATCH: Social media platforms come under heavy criticism for not reacting fast enough to stop spread of violent, hateful material

Click to play video: 'Controlling the spread of online hate and violence' Controlling the spread of online hate and violence
Controlling the spread of online hate and violence – Mar 17, 2019

Plus, the court should issue a permanent injunction ordering Anglin to remove the posts and photos because “the atrocious conduct directed at Gersh and her family has not entirely abated,” Lynch wrote.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Study says anyone can be an internet troll under the right circumstances – even you

Even if Christensen approves Lynch’s recommendations, it’s questionable whether Gersh will see a dime if Anglin remains outside the reach of U.S. authorities.

But that’s not the point, said her attorney, David Dinielli of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The significance is not in whether we will collect the money,” Dinielli said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “The significance is that Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent from a small town in Montana, stood up to fight the most notorious neo-Nazi on the web, and she won.”

Gersh said in a statement that Lynch’s recommendation is a clear message to extremists that nobody should be terrorized for simply being who they are.

READ MORE: Forget anonymity: Internet trolls are more abusive when using their real names, study finds

“This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers, and I wanted to make sure that this never happens to anyone else,” she said.

Anglin did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Story continues below advertisement

He faces default judgments in at least three other federal cases, including lawsuits filed by two other alleged targets of his online trolling campaigns.

In one, a federal judge in Ohio last month awarded Muslim-American radio host Dean Obeidallah $4.1 million after Anglin falsely accused him of terrorism.

Sponsored content