A social media platform can be compelled to divulge account information belonging to a woman who anonymously chatted online about plans for last summer’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a federal magistrate judge ruled Monday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero’s 28-page order says the woman’s First Amendment rights to anonymous speech don’t outweigh the importance of disclosing her identity to plaintiffs’ attorneys suing over the rally’s violence. Leaked Discord messages indicate the woman, identified only as “Jane Doe” in court papers, likely was involved in planning the event last August, the magistrate said.
San Francisco-based Discord, an app that allows for text and voice chats, is popular with video game players. But the service also has been a communication tool for far-right extremists, including organizers of the Charlottesville rally.
The woman’s attorneys had asked the San Francisco-based magistrate to quash a subpoena for Discord to turn over her account information and content of her communications to the lawyers, who filed a federal suit in Virginia against organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally last August.
Hundreds of people traveled to Charlottesville to participate in the rally and protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park that was named after the Confederate general.