Emily Gorcenski
Born1982 (age 38–39)
Alma materRensselaer Polytechnic Institute
OccupationData scientist, activist

Emily Gorcenski (born 1982)[1] is an American data scientist and activist who now resides in Germany. Gorcenski was a counter-protester at the Unite the Right rally in 2017, and subsequently created the site 'First Vigil' to track the trial information of white nationalists.

Early life and education

Emily Gorcenski grew up in Columbia, Connecticut. She attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she studied aeronautical and mechanical engineering before graduating with a degree in mathematics.[2][3] Gorcenski is a transgender woman.[4]


Unite the Right

In August 2017, Gorcenski was a counter-protester at the Unite the Right rally in her city of residence of Charlottesville, Virginia. At the August 11 "torch" rally, she was sprayed in the face with pepper spray by white supremacist Christopher Cantwell, who pleaded guilty to charges of assault and was barred from Virginia for 5 years,[5] and was also attacked by Atomwaffen Division member Vasillios Pistolis.[6]

In the wake of her assault at the rally, Gorcenski and one other counter-protester pressed charges against Cantwell, who in turn filed a federal lawsuit against them.[7] In response, Gorcenski and her co-defendant counter-sued Cantwell.[8] In the lawsuit, Gorcenski was repeatedly misgendered by both Cantwell and his attorney, Elmer Woodard. Woodard's motions to have the court refer to Gorcenski by her pre-transition name (and for the court to use male pronouns) were both denied.[9] Both lawsuits were settled in 2018 with a mutual release of claims.[10]

Due to her public opposition to the rally, Gorcenski was harassed online and doxed. She told The Intercept that she had been victim to transphobic harassment from before the rally in Charlottesville.[11] Gorcenski was swatted in October 2017 after the rally's organizer Jason Kessler reportedly doxed her. Kessler was subsequently arrested,[12] though charges were dismissed when new evidence showed Kessler did not control the account that posted Gorcenski's address.[13] In 2018, due to safety concerns, Gorcenski left Charlottesville for Berlin, Germany, where she now resides.[14][15]

Digital activism

Gorcenski's experiences at Unite the Right led her to use her skills as a data scientist to help identify and dox[16][17] white nationalists and members of the alt-right engaged in criminal activity. Gorcenski created the website 'First Vigil' to track the trial information of white nationalists and associated individuals. The site uses court documents and other public records.[18][17] Gorcenski was named one of the fifty most influential feminists in 2018 by Bitch magazine for her work in creating First Vigil.[19] In 2016, Gorcenski criticized the ethics of a study by an independent researcher who released the private information on approximately 70,000 users of the dating website OkCupid.[20] The study in question was widely panned for being unethical, racist, and a breach of user privacy.[21][22][23] Gorcenski covered the issue in a discussion with Sarah Jeong at Mozfest in 2017.[24] Gorcenski sometimes speaks about the ethics of emerging technology, such as consumer internet of things devices.[25] In 2016, Gorcenski explored software quality controls for electronic voting machines, expressing concern for the apparent lack of mandatory standards.[26]

During the George Floyd protests in 2020, Gorcenski launched whentheycamedown, a people's history project to document the removal of statues of historical figures aligned with white supremacy and colonialism.[27]


Gorcenski is a sporadic political opinion writer. After president Donald Trump controversially stated that there were "very fine people on both sides" at the Charlottesville rally, Gorcenski wrote an op-ed for The Guardian where she argued that his speech demonstrated his unwillingness to criticize neo-Nazis, which emboldened white supremacy.[28] Her criticism extends at times to the Democratic Party, where she takes issue with what she perceives as the exploitation of the terror attack at Unite the Right for political gains.[29] As a transgender rights activist, she has written about healthcare concerns for transgender Americans.[30]


  1. ^ "Extremily Gorcenski". Twitter (verified account). Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  2. ^ Gorcenski, Emily (12 December 2018). "About me".
  3. ^ Ziour, Jordi (2020-10-12). "Emily Gorcenski: Mit Daten gegen Rechts". Die Tageszeitung: taz (in German). ISSN 0931-9085. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  4. ^ O'Neil, Luke (2017-08-13). "'A Lot of Broken Bones, Blood, All of the Above': 3 Charlottesville Witnesses Share Their Stories". Esquire. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  5. ^ Zaveri, Mihir (2018-07-21). "Christopher Cantwell, White Nationalist in Vice Video, Is Barred From Virginia". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  6. ^ Thompson, A. C.; Winston, Ali (2018-06-20). "U.S. Marine to Be Imprisoned Over Involvement With Hate…". ProPublica. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  7. ^ "Cantwell Claims Counterprotesters Attempting to Frame Him". nbc29.com. 2018-01-17. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  8. ^ "Activists File Counter Lawsuit Against Christopher Cantwell". NBC29. February 27, 2018. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  9. ^ Shapira, Ian (July 2, 2018). "He once defended the poor in court. Now he defends white supremacists". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  10. ^ "2 Lawsuits Tied to Torch-Lit Rally at UVA Dismissed". nbc29.com. 2018-11-16. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  11. ^ Lee, Micah (September 6, 2017). "How Right-Wing Extremists Stalk, Dox, and Harass Their Enemies". The Intercept. Retrieved June 2, 2019. On August 17, NSJW posted a link to Gorcenski’s page on a website dedicated to discussing how best to troll victims...
  12. ^ Moyer, Justin (October 17, 2017). "Organizer of Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville arrested again". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  13. ^ Berg, Lauren. "Charges dropped against Kessler in light of new evidence". The Daily Progress. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  14. ^ "A critic of Unite the Right, Emily Gorcenski, is leaving town". WINA. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  15. ^ Tashea, Jason (16 November 2018). "New database tracks the prosecution of right-wing extremists". ABA Journal. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  16. ^ Abowd, Paul (April 17, 2018). "Neo-Nazi 'Tyrone' exposed as US marine". Al Jazeera. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Gault, Matthew (November 14, 2018). "The Data Scientist Tracking America's White Supremacists". Vice News. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  18. ^ Levin, Sam (2 October 2020). "The data scientist exposing US white supremacists: 'This is how you fight Nazis'". The Guardian.
  19. ^ "Presenting the 2018 Bitch 50". Bitch Media. 2018-12-06. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  20. ^ Beyeler, Michael. "Open science gone awry: How 70,000 OKCupid users just had their private data exposed". Ask A Swiss.
  21. ^ Hackett, Robert. "Researchers Caused an Uproar By Publishing Data From 70,000 OkCupid Users". Fortune.com.
  22. ^ Zimmer, Michael. "OkCupid Study Reveals the Perils of Big-Data Science". Wired.
  23. ^ Duportail, Judith (7 April 2017). "Dans le laboratoire de la "fake science"". Le Temps. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  24. ^ "Debunking Fake News and Fake Science". Mozilla. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  25. ^ "The Ethics of the Internet of Things". JSConf. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  26. ^ Bond, John-Michael (December 2016). "Electronic voting machines are broken—and here's the code to prove it". Daily Dot. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  27. ^ Shoot, Britta (22 July 2020). "Keeping Track of Monument Removals Could Be a Full-Time Job". Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  28. ^ Gorcenski, Emily (2017-08-16). "No, Mr Trump, we're not the same as the neo-Nazis". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  29. ^ Gorcenski, Emily (8 August 2019). "Terry McAuliffe Still Doesn't Understand What Happened in Charlottesville". Slate. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  30. ^ Gorcenski, Emily (5 May 2017). "President Trump Complicates Healthcare for Transgender Americans". Out. Retrieved 10 August 2019.