Hate-crime charges filed in Charlottesville auto attack
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The identity of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who planned 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville to be revealed thanks to a court ruling on Monday in a federal lawsuit filed by victims.
The event last August, where white nationalists demonstrated in favor of maintaining the Confederation of the statues in the city and clashed with anti-racist protesters, has led to the death of the counter-protesters by Heather Heyer, when she was hit by a car driven by James Alex Fields.
According to Gizmodo, the lawyers of the plaintiffs in the case filed a subpoena earlier this year to ask the chat site Disagreement to turn over the information, including chat logs and the identity of users in a Unite the Right planning server. Their goal was to prove that the organizers of the rally intended to make as much chaos as possible, and not—as they claimed to be victims of counter-protesters and the police.
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The U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, who is overseeing the case, ruled that the plaintiffs have the right to know the account information of more than 30 users on the server. That information should shed light on the question of whether anyone who used the chat service ended up attending the rally and could lend credence to the plaintiffs ‘ claims of intent.
Neo-Nazi, a white supremacist and white nationalist groups are seen in Charlottesville, Va., in the vicinity of the small group of counter-protesters, Aug. 11, 2017.
The court also ruled that the Stored Communications Act prevents him from letting go of the actual content of the messages to the plaintiffs, the tech site reports.
The Discord server is used for the dissemination of racist propaganda and discuss everything from what kind of improvised weapons participants must bring about the question of whether they could safely “fedora-shaped helmets,” reports The Washington Post.
Although Spero gave the plaintiffs access to the account data, he said that it should be restricted to only a few people — which means that it will not be seen by the general public, but only by lawyers and court staff.
Marc Rendazza, a lawyer who is one of the Disagreements users, told the Post that he is still considering an appeal of the ruling.
“The decision of the court to limit the disclosure to these selection groups seems to me to be a recognition of the potential First Amendment harm that would result if the information is made public,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation staffer Aaron Mackey told Wired. “The court recognized that even on this highly charged and emotional moment, the First Amendment limits if private parties can unmask anonymous online speakers.”
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But Mackey warned that the same tools used to expose white supremacists can be used against the “historic role of powerless individuals and groups to intimidate, harass, and silence them.”
In a statement to Gizmodo, the Division said it has taken measures to remove servers and users, the promotion of sexual harassment and violence, but declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
The Wall Street Journal reports that battle, lawsuits, and a social-media approach are hampered by the white nationalist and other right-wing groups, while others are blocked, prohibited or restricted by social media companies and financial services companies.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.