A new website that was created to provide Ontarians with a list of businesses whose staff are fully vaccinated or that require customers to show proof of vaccination has been shut down, citing online attacks by a small contingent of anti-vaccine.
SafeTO-Do went live last week, alongside a Twitter account that announced new additions to the website. It was created by Brandon Mattalo, a Toronto lawyer who works primarily in commercial litigation on a freelance basis.
Mattalo announced in a long Twitter thread Tuesday night that he was shutting down the website. He previously said in an interview earlier this week that he had received messages from people opposed to the use of face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He also said he heard from opponents of vaccines and the concept of the vaccination passport, which is a document proving that the holder has received two doses of the vaccine.
“Every time I add a new business there is a group of people (a small minority) who attack those businesses by leaving fake Google reviews, making fake reservations at their restaurants and sending them hate messages.” , he wrote.
“So I cannot in good conscience continue to add companies to the website, because I cannot be sure that they will not be attacked by the same people.”
Every time I add a new business there is a bunch of people (a small minority) who attack those businesses by leaving fake reviews on Google, making bogus reservations at their restaurants, and sending them hate messages.
I don’t feel comfortable adding companies, despite their requests, as I cannot confirm that they are aware of some of the negative reactions that can result.
The creator of the site received hate messages
Mattalo declined a request for an interview when contacted by CBC News on Wednesday, citing the hate messages he received.
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 that centralizing it in a format that is easy to view and navigate would be useful for people,” he said. “There aren’t really any guidelines on what businesses should be doing.”
On Twitter, Mattalo said he had received numerous messages of support from companies about the company, with one telling him that she had received more than 100,000 views online after being listed, and only 20 negative messages.
“Overall, the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive,” he wrote.
But Mattalo said he also received a “significant” number of hate messages, including one he reported to police.
“The messages have become more and more personal, directed and hateful.”
He said he didn’t want to expose companies to that kind of response anymore. “A lot of people just want to go about their business and not mind it, that’s understandable.”
Some companies seek government advice
People’s Pint Brewing Company was one of the companies listed on the website before it closed. Co-owner Doug Appeldoorn told CBC News staff are fully vaccinated and said he thinks the SafeTO-Do website is a great idea.
“I think it’s terrible that a small minority of very loud and dangerous people are allowed to do this stuff.”
Appeldoorn noted, however, that apart from a few detractors, the response to the company’s announcement that all staff had been vaccinated had been received “overwhelmingly”.
He says he thinks the province should provide guidance and a framework, through a program like vaccine passports – an idea Premier Doug Ford has rejected despite calls from several leading organizations, including the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
As of Wednesday, 63 percent of eligible Ontarians were fully immunized and just under 80 percent had received a first dose of the vaccine. The province reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 today.