A website that tried to help Ontarians by listing businesses with strong COVID-19 vaccination policies has shut down because of pressure and harassment from anti-vaxxers.
SafeTODo.ca began earlier this week to highlight businesses that were striving to make customers feel safe.
It compiled lists of local businesses that either has their entire staff vaccinated or require customers to be fully vaccinated before entering.
Happy to announce that we now have 38 businesses who are celebrating their staff’s vaccination status and/or who have vaccine policies for higher-risk transmission settings. Please continue to send pictures of you enjoying these lovely businesses. https://t.co/RjLWBlcE2a
— safetodo.ca (@safetodo) July 20, 2021
But on Tuesday, the website’s operator Brandon Mattalo announced it was shutting down after less than a week because anti-vaxxers are targeting the businesses the site is trying to celebrate.
“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 said on Twitter.
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Anti-vaxxers also targeted Mattalo himself. He received multiple hateful messages, including one he reported to the police.
This was a hard, but necessary decision to make. It has been a whirlwind the past few days, and I have more empathy than ever for those who have been in these situations before. I have never experienced it firsthand, until now. https://t.co/QfxSUU7OAZ
— Brandon Mattalo (@BrandonMattalo) July 21, 2021
“I don’t see this as ‘defeat.’ I just don’t think that the goal that I initially set out to accomplish can positively be met, without significant risk. I hope everyone will continue to support their local businesses,” he said.
Mattalo’s website received support from some prominent Toronto doctors and COVID-19 data trackers, who viewed it as a temporary ad-hoc alternative to a government vaccine certificate program.
Please retweet and follow @safetodo
Businesses that keep their staff and customers safe deserve to be rewarded!! https://t.co/Jo929CWr98
— David Fisman (@DFisman) July 19, 2021
What you did was absolutely fantastic. We need vaccine passports now, so that individual businesses don’t need to stick their necks out to be safe.@joe_cressy @CPHO_Canada @VoiceOfFranky @JohnTory @cafreeland
— David Fisman (@DFisman) July 21, 2021
Several health professionals shared their disappointment on Twitter about the site being shut down.
Very troubled to see @safetodo shutting down because businesses were being targetted by anti-vaxxers.
The #Ontario government must step up and establish a #COVID19 vaccine certificate system, so that businesses are not threatened for trying to protect their workers and patrons. https://t.co/7r6FZxafVF
— Nathan Stall (@NathanStall) July 21, 2021
Please read this thread. I’m so dishearted that this important public resource has shut down. I can only imagine the hate mail (in fact, I don’t even have to imagine… this small, angry group targets many.) What a wonderful and generous effort though, @safetodo. Thank you. https://t.co/DaJLxCvMN7
— Menaka Pai, MSc MD FRCPC (@MPaiMD) July 21, 2021