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A federal judge decided on Wednesday not to dismiss a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of real estate agent Tanya Gersh against the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.
Dana L. Christensen, a federal judge in Montana, ruled that Gersh, who is Jewish, is a private citizen and not a public figure and therefore the lawsuit doesn’t infringe on Anglin’s and the Daily Stormer’s First Amendment rights.
The anti-Semitic campaign came after Gersh met with Sherry Spencer, the mother of white supremacist Richard Spencer, about a building Spencer owned. Spencer consulted Gersh in 2016 after her son’s views gained attention on a national stage and she faced protests from local residents. Gersh apparently told Spencer that she should sell the building and distance herself from her son’s views, according to the New York Times.
Spencer initially agreed, but later wrote a Medium post accusing Gersh of attempting to extort her to sell the building and distance herself from her son and his racist views.
After that, Anglin and his followers sent Gersh over 700 threatening messages, many referencing the Holocaust or threatening death against Gersh, her husband, and her 12-year-old son. They also published the social media profiles, email addresses, and phone numbers of Gersh’s family and friends, according to the Washington Post.
“Anglin did not use speech about Gersh to raise awareness for issues consonant with the alt-right agenda,” Christensen ruled. Instead, he said, Anglin animated anti-Semitism amongst his followers to specifically target Gersh.
Anglin told followers to make it clear that, “you are sickened by their Jew agenda to attack and harm the mother of someone whom they disagree with,” according to the Times. He also referred to the campaign as “an old fashioned Troll Storm,” the Post wrote.
Next, the case will proceed to the discovery and trial phases. If the case ends in Gersh’s favor, the Post notes, it could open up a new avenue for justice for victims of online trolling.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.