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The Not Guilty Verdict In Canada's "Twitter Harassment Case" Has Opened The Floodgates For More Online Harassment

Gregory Alan Elliott was found not guilty of criminally harassing two Toronto-area feminist activists.

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The verdict in a closely-watched Canadian online harassment case has unleashed a new wave of vitriol against women on Twitter.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

On Friday, a Toronto court found Gregory Alan Elliott not guilty of criminally harassing two prominent feminist activists on Twitter.

The Crown brought two charges of criminal harassment and one charge of breaking a peace bond against Elliott for his communications with Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly, who testified at trial that Elliott kept tabs on them and continually commented on their activities even after they blocked him.

The case is believed to be the first in Canada involving criminal harassment over Twitter and could set a precedent for future cases of online harassment.

Following the verdict, many women on Twitter who had commented on the case reported receiving a flood of harassment, threats, and graphic photos and videos.

I dare to express support for women and my mentions are flooded with vile, hateful garbage. I will not be intimidated or silenced. FU MRAs.

I have not talked/written about GAE for months and my mentions are already filled with threats and dick pics. What a victory for free speech

Are any men getting sent dick pics and videos because they're tweeting about GAE? Got my second one.

The hashtag #FreedomOfTweets, where many tweeted their support for Elliott, was also filled with vitriol directed at the two women at the centre of the case.

Julie Lalonde, an Ottawa-based public educator who frequently comments on issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence, said she had to lock down her Twitter account following the verdict due to the sheer amount of vitriol she received.

Twitter

"It is so incredibly meta to be flooded with aggressive, hateful, harassing tweets as a result of the courts deciding that one man's targeted campaign at women was not threatening," she told BuzzFeed Canada.

Toronto-based writer and entrepreneur Elena Yunusov said even expressing sympathy for the women at the centre of the case brought a torrent of angry responses into her mentions.

Twitter

“It just shows you how even saying someone's name just unleashes the ugly part of Twitter,” she told BuzzFeed Canada.

Other women, who did not want to be identified in this article, said they received dozens or hundreds of angry messages, including doxing threats.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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