Campaign against online intimidation

Reprinted with permission from (, Edmonton, AB), as part of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). Many more stories can be found at

Shari Narine
Local Journalism Initiative

Hate speech on social media is working to silence the voices of women, says Shari Graydon, catalyst and director of Informed Opinions, an organization that aims to give that voice back.

It has launched a $2 million campaign called Toxic Hush, which includes a tribunal allowing five individuals to share their experiences and concerns, and three ‘citizen judges’ to provide legal context.

“Online hate is eroding the equality gains that took decades to achieve,” says Graydon.

“We have been on a slow march over the last one hundred years to increase access and respect for women, for Indigenous people, for Black people and immigrants, and the silencing effect of online hate and intimidation is really starting to undo the progress that we’ve made.”

In 1990, Graydon joined MediaWatch, now known as Informed Opinions, as a way to get women’s voices heard as experts in mainstream media. Women, particularly Indigenous, Black, and gender-diverse, were too often silenced and Graydon made it her work to train these women, supporting diverse voices to influence public conversation.

But, Graydon says, “the environment has gotten much more toxic in the last couple of years.” These same women have become targets of online harassment, trolling, cyberbullying, cyberviolence and hate speech.

“I think it’s a fair thing to say that the higher profile women have, and more perceived power and influence they have, the more of a target they become,” says Graydon.

While there are no statistics yet available to provide the scope of women who face online abuse, a research survey underway by Informed Opinions indicates that 90 per cent of respondents (almost 200 women) have been targeted.

Further breakdown shows that women with intersectional identities are the hardest impacted. Intersectional identity refers to individuals whose identities intersect a number of factors, including race, ethnicity, sexual identity and sexual expression.

Journalist Brandi Morin (from Treaty 6 Alberta) and advocate Lori Campbell (from Treaty 6 Saskatchewan) are two such Indigenous women. They were approached by Informed Opinions to speak about the harassment and personal threats online they had experienced.

As a journalist who covers such issues as “oppression, violence and human rights abuses” that Indigenous people face, Morin uses social media to get her stories to the world.

“Social media breaks the boundaries of borders, cultures and geographics. It’s a powerful tool to engage with people who would otherwise be unaware of these atrocities,” she explained in her survey response.

Not only has her work been attacked, but Morin as a person has also been verbally attacked and threatened online.

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