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Legalbrief   |   your legal news hub Sunday 25 August 2019

Former student leader wins damages for racist trolling

A federal judge last week awarded more than $700 000 to a former American University (AU) student government president who accused the founder of a well-known neo-Nazi website of directing his followers to threaten her with racist online messages. According to a report in The Independent, Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as student government president at AU, in 2017 sued Andrew Anglin, the founder and editor of the Daily Stormer, alleging he initiated a racist ‘troll storm’ against her that made her fear for her life and disrupted her ability to pursue her education. As a result of the trolling, Dumpson was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. Dumpson alleged Anglin and his followers intentionally inflicted emotional distress on her and ‘interfered with her enjoyment of places of public accommodation’ because she no longer felt safe on the AU campus. The judge agreed with Dumpson's lawyers' argument that because the AU campus is accessible to the public, it should be considered a ‘public accommodation’. The decision, in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, is possibly the first time a court has ruled that racist online trolling activity can interfere with such access, according to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented Dumpson.