Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer accused of defamation by radio host, as it’s ‘completely banned from the Internet’
A Muslim American radio host is accusing the operator of a notorious neo-Nazi website of defaming him by falsely labeling him the “mastermind” of a deadly concert bombing in England, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
SiriusXM Radio host Dean Obeidallah sued the Daily Stormer’s publisher, Andrew Anglin, two days after the domain name registration companies Google and GoDaddy yanked the site’s Web address, making it unreachable until it reemerged with a Russian domain name Wednesday. As of noon Pacific time, however, that domain name was unreachable too.
The companies acted after Anglin’s republication of a Daily Stormer post mocking the 32-year-old woman killed in a deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
Obeidallah’s lawsuit says the site published fabricated messages in a June 1 story to make them seem like they had been sent from Obeidallah’s Twitter account, leading readers to believe that he took responsibility for the May 22 terrorist attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.
Obeidallah, a comedian and Daily Beast columnist, told the Associated Press that he received death threats after the article’s publication.
“It was literally jaw-dropping,” he said. “The death threats were something I’ve never seen before in my life.”
One comment on the post said Obeidallah “just earned himself a spot at the gallows,” according to his suit. Another threatened him with hanging, the suit said.
“Mr. Obeidallah is an ardent believer in and defender of the 1st Amendment. He recognizes the importance of freedom of speech and political discourse, regardless of viewpoint. But the 1st Amendment does not license defamation,” his suit says.
The suit claims that the article’s defamatory statements were intended to incite violence against Obeidallah. It cites other alleged examples of Daily Stormer readers who did just that, including Dylann Roof, who read the site before killing black churchgoers in South Carolina.
Anglin emailed a two-word response to the AP’s request for comment on the lawsuit: “Wew lads,” referring to an Internet meme expressing sarcastic fake-surprise and dismissiveness.
The suit comes at a tumultuous time for the Daily Stormer, which already faced a federal lawsuit by another target of one of its online trolling campaigns.
Its publisher said Wednesday that he has “effectively been completely banned from the Internet” after mocking the victim of a deadly car attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
“Clearly, the powers that be believe that they have the ability to simply kick me off the Internet,” Andrew Anglin, who has published the site from an undisclosed location, complained to the Associated Press in an email.
Access to the Daily Stormer had been sporadic since Monday, when Google canceled its domain name registration, making its IP address nearly impossible for internet users to locate. The site had moved its registration to Google after GoDaddy tweeted late Sunday night that it had given the Daily Stormer 24 hours to move its domain to another provider. Google then yanked the address as well, citing a violation of its terms of service.
The site briefly reappeared Wednesday with a Russian domain name and registration and a dubious top story, making the unsupported claim that President Trump had called Russian President Vladimir Putin to get the site restored. The story presented no evidence that Trump or Putin had any involvement in the move, and Trump has no known links to the site.
Until midday, the site continued to receive performance and security services from San Francisco-based Cloudflare Inc., protecting it from distributed denial-of-service attacks.
Cloudflare confirmed Wednesday afternoon that it had terminated the website’s account.
“The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology,” said Chief Executive Matthew Prince in a blog post. “Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time.”
The site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. It includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” Anglin said he was struggling to find a domain registry service whose terms of service allow the content he produces.
A lawyer for Obeidallah said the Daily Stormer hasn’t responded to a request to remove the June 1 article about him. Obeidallah is represented by Muslim Advocates, a national legal and educational organization based in Oakland.
Obeidallah’s lawsuit claims Anglin libeled him, invaded his privacy and intentionally inflicted “emotional distress.” It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The Daily Stormer published its post about Obeidallah a day after the Daily Beast published his column entitled, “Will Donald Trump Ever Say the Words ‘White Supremacist Terrorism’?”
“Their goal was clearly to marginalize my voice,” said Obeidallah, 47, a resident of New York City.
The lawsuit was filed in Columbus, Ohio. Anglin is an Ohio native who uses a post office box in Worthington, Ohio.
In April, a Montana woman sued Anglin, accusing him of orchestrating an anti-Semitic trolling campaign against her family. Tanya Gersh’s suit claims anonymous Internet trolls bombarded her relatives with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information in a post accusing her and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Mont., of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Gersh is represented by attorneys from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. In July, the center’s lawyers claimed Anglin was “actively concealing his whereabouts” and hadn’t been served with Gersh’s suit. They said they looked for him at four addresses in Franklin County, Ohio, where he apparently has connections.
6:05 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the Daily Stormer’s publisher that the site had been “banned from the Internet.”
This article was originally published at 12 :10 p.m.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.