Online trolls force closure of pro-vaccine Ontario business website


Online trolls force closure of pro-vaccine Ontario business website-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
A team from Humber River Hospital administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at St. Fidelis Parish church, in Toronto, on Apr. 7, 2021. A website that was listing Ontario businesses that had fully vaccinated staff or required proof of vaccinations from customers has shut down. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A new website that was set up to provide Ontarians with a list of businesses with fully vaccinated staff or that require customers to show proof of vaccination has shut down, citing online attacks from a small contingent of anti-vaxxers.

Over 2.5 million eligible Ontarians still not vaccinated as province reports 127 new COVID-19 cases

Mattalo announced in a lengthy Twitter thread Tuesday night that he is shutting down the website.

“Whenever I add a new business, there is a group of people (a small minority), who attack those businesses by leaving fake Google reviews, making false bookings at their restaurants, and sending hateful messages to them,” he wrote.

“I cannot, therefore, in good conscience continue to add businesses to the website, because I cannot be certain that they will not be attacked by the same people.”

Mattalo declined an interview request when contacted by CBC News Wednesday, citing the hateful messages he’s been getting.

In a previous interview, Mattalo said the idea for the website came from a desire to help residents and businesses.

“I think people want this information. And I just thought centralizing it in an easy-to-look-at format and to look through would be useful to people,” he said. “There isn’t really guidance on what businesses should do.”

On Twitter, Mattalo said he has gotten a lot of supportive messages from businesses about the venture, with one telling him that it received over 100,000 online views after being listed, and only 20 negative posts.

“Overall, it has been an abundantly positive reaction from the community,’ he wrote. But, he added, he has also gotten a “significant” number of hate messages, including one that he reported to police.

“The messages have become increasingly personal, directed, and hateful,” he said.

“I cannot, in good conscience, expose any more businesses to that. Many just want to do their business and not deal with this, understandably.”

People’s Pint Brewing Company was one of the companies listed on the website before it shut down. Co-owner Doug Appeldoorn told CBC News that staff there are all fully vaccinated, and he thought the SafeTO-Do website was a great idea.

“I think it’s terrible that a small minority of very vocal, dangerous people are allowed to do these kinds of things,” Appeldoorn said.

He did note, however, that outside from a few detractors, response to the company’s announcement that all staff have been vaccinated has been received in an “overwhelmingly positive” way.

Appeldoorn says he believes the province should be providing guidance and a framework here, through a program like vaccine passports — an idea Premier Doug Ford has rejected despite calls from several prominent organizations including the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

As of Wednesday, 63 per cent of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated and just under 80 per cent have had a first dose of vaccine. The province reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 today.

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