Olivia Katbi Smith, co-chair of Portland's chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Nov. 19 accusing a North Carolina man of posting her private information online.
The complaint alleges Chadwick Jason Seagraves posted the home address of Smith and her family online this month and encouraged others to spread the information across far-right online platforms.
The lawsuit describes Seagraves as a member of the right-wing men's group the Proud Boys and alleges he has a history of doxxing—that is, posting personal information about people to make their lives unpleasant. The lawsuit alleges that he intentionally targeted Smith because of her political views. Seagraves could not be reached for comment.
"Defendant has a substantial history of purposefully doxxing Portland residents on the internet based on their political viewpoints in hopes of silencing viewpoints that defendant disagrees with, and interfering in Oregon's political process," the complaint says.
The information was posted online via a "data dump" of a massive file titled "A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME," court records say, likely a reference to the DSA's rose logo, as well as Portland's nickname, the "City of Roses." That file unzipped to several smaller folders about alleged anti-fascist and anarchist activists in Portland and Asheville, N.C.
The lawsuit says the folders contained over a thousand images, mostly collected from social media, along with residential addresses and phone numbers.
"Although the research appears to be relatively unsophisticated social media creeping, the fact that someone is targeting these individuals is worrying," court records say. "It is obvious that whoever collected this information spent considerable time and energy on this project."
Attorneys looked at the metadata of the data dump, which revealed that 1,446 of the 2,141 files were tagged with the creator's name, "Chadwick Jason Seagraves."
Smith is suing Seagraves for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking $45,000.
"Defendant's intentional, outrageous and extreme behavior was an extraordinary transgression of the bounds of socially tolerable conduct and exceeded any reasonable limit of social toleration," the complaint says, "and caused plaintiff to experience extreme and ongoing distress, worry and concern for the safety of her family."
Current Oregon law does not specifically prohibit doxxing. Similar to "revenge porn" laws, which aren't explicitly codified in many states, lawyers can sue those who post others' private information online under civil statutes for intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of privacy.
That could change in the next several months, however. Oregon lawmakers last month drafted bill concepts to be introduced in the 2021 legislative session that would make it a civil violation to post a person's private information online.
Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), who is leading the charge on the doxxing bill, says creating the legislation is incredibly difficult in part because it requires balancing free speech and privacy rights, and also because the speed of technology moves significantly faster than the state Legislature.
"It is perhaps the most difficult [legislation] I've ever had to write," Bynum says. "It's something that you need to react to really quickly, but the Legislature is designed not to move quickly. It has to deliberate. It has to see things from all sides."