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Racist emails sent to thousands of Stanford affiliates, individuals at peer institutions

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Racist emails containing the N-word and a reference to lynching were sent to 3,600 Stanford affiliates, as well as individuals at peer institutions across the country, on Saturday evening.

The emails were sent by an unknown actor using a publicly accessible form on the website of Equity Prime Mortgage, a company that made headlines on Friday after firing the stepmother of the white police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta

The form allowed individuals to submit their contact information to receive more information about the company’s loans. Instead, the unknown actor filled out the form using a list of university email addresses, and submitted the racist message in the field asking for the individual’s name, according to Equity Prime Mortgage Chief Technology Officer Mark Moloughney. 

The message called Equity Prime Mortgage a “lender for WHITES ONLY” and used the N-word in a reference to the lynching of Black people. 

Equity Prime Mortgage has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify who sent the messages, Moloughney told The Daily. 

The company’s web hosting provider told the company that the sender likely used a script or bot to allow it to send thousands of emails over a short time frame. The company also does not know how the sender obtained its list of emails, but believes that the sender had used the list before to send similar emails, according to Moloughney.

At Stanford, University IT blocked further distribution of the emails after they had been sent to 3,600 people. University IT also purged the message from inboxes using the Office 365 service.

“There is zero tolerance for hate speech on University communication platforms, and UIT will remain vigilant in our efforts to keep our SPAM filters updated,” wrote Stanford Chief Information Officer Steve Gallagher in an email to the community. “I sincerely regret that some of the messages did make it through to user mailboxes.” 

On Saturday evening and Sunday morning, some University divisions reached out to their students to offer support and highlight resources like Counseling and Psychological Services and the Bridge Peer Counseling Center. Leaders of the American Studies and Symbolic Systems programs also tied the email to broader issues of racial injustice highlighted around the country, as protests flare in the wake of the killings of Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. 

“Whether or not the despicable email that made the rounds last night originated from within the campus community or from outside of it, a program like American Studies must be part of disrupting and dismantling the structures that make acts like this email possible — wherever we encounter them,” American Studies director Shelley Fisher Fishkin wrote to the individuals in the program. 

Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Erin Woo '21 is a Managing Editor of News. A communications major and creative writing minor, she plans to pursue a career in journalism. She has also reported for The Mercury News and WNYC. Contact her at erinkwoo 'at' stanford.edu.