A group of self-described "national socialists" in Nova Scotia has posted personal information about people who have shown interest in protests calling for the removal of an Edward Cornwallis statue in Halifax, labelling them as "potentially dangerous."
Cornwallis was a governor of Nova Scotia. In 1749, he issued a so-called scalping proclamation offering a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person.
On Saturday, a large crowd protested around the statue and demanded the likeness of Halifax's controversial founder be removed from a downtown park.
Demonstators had earlier threatened on Facebook to remove the statue but relented when municipal crews covered the monument in black cloth for the duration of the event.
An anonymous Twitter user affiliated with Cape Breton Alt Right published a list online last Thursday, releasing the names, photos and other identifying details of 28 people interested in the removal of the statue — in a process known on the internet as "doxing."
The list, later shared and discussed on Facebook, also included categories like:
- Group affiliation (anti-Fascist, Communist, anarchist, LGBT).
- Associates/sexual partners.
- Contact info/social media links.
The final "notes" column identifies some people as being "mentally ill and unstable," "extremely militant and dangerous," having histories of being "drunk and disorderly" and being on police watch lists.
Tied to anti-fascist organization
Adam Lemoine of North Sydney was doxed as having affiliations with Antifa, a far-left, anti-fascist organization. He said he was "blown away" when he found out, as he has never even been to a protest.
"The only information they had correct was my name and my hometown," said Lemoine, who caught wind of the list after it was posted on Facebook.
"They have me playing an instrument I didn't play, in a band that no longer exists."
Lemoine said he clicked "interested" on a Facebook event for a protest last Saturday at the Cornwallis statue to get updates on what happened.
He believes the Twitter user who posted the list saw that, put his name into a search engine and listed what they found.
List created with public safety in mind: group
Lemoine said that when he asked the Cape Breton Alt Right group to remove his name from the list, it responded by saying even if he could prove his details were wrong, the rest of the information would stay.
The group continues to maintain anonymity and refused to be interviewed by the CBC over the phone or in person on the grounds that it would be "inappropriate."
In an emailed statement, however, the group said it has received death threats almost daily since the list was posted.
The statement goes on to compare the actions of Cornwallis demonstrators to the destruction of historical sites in Palmyra by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and indicates the list was compiled over the course of about two months "in the interest of public safety."
"The community at large has a right to know the identities of those around them who may pose a threat to their immediate safety and a threat to their property," said the two-page statement, signed only by "leadership."
Alt right, which is a shorthand for alternative right, is an increasingly common term for a far-right political movement. It is a mainly online movement that rejects mainstream conservativism in favour of promoting white identity and espousing ideas widely seen as racist, homophobic or misogynistic.
Tanner Leudy, a student at Cape Breton University, shared the same event page for the Cornwallis protest on Facebook though he knew he couldn't attend.
Leudy said he had never even heard of Antifa before the list linked him to the organization and he's worried about how being associated with such a group could affect the future of those who've been doxed.
"I've never done anything to warrant [the inclusion]," said Leudy. "Being labelled as a dangerous protester, even if it's not true, isn't something that employers will want in their workplace."
The group maintains all of the information was gathered within the public domain, referencing social media and news interviews, but David Fraser, an internet privacy lawyer in Halifax, said it's the language of the list's "notes" column that may push legal boundaries.
Questioning the legality
Information compiled from social media platforms is fair game when it comes to doxing, said Fraser.
However, he added that legal proceedings on doxing, as rare as they are, require that what has been published is explored as much as why it has been published.
"To be defamatory, all something has to do is to harm your reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person," said Fraser.
"It would seem to me that [the notes] at the end of the list would be, on its face, defamatory and the onus would shift to the person who said them to justify them as being true."
Fraser said the Halifax Proud Boys provide a good example of doxing.
He said they were "implicitly doxed" by volunteering their personal information when showing up at an Indigenous rally on Canada Day in Cornwallis Park. They were recorded and the videos eventually made it to their workplace, resulting in their reprimand.
But, Fraser said, it's part of the "rough and tumble" of freely expressed politics.
CBC News reached out to the Cape Breton Regional Police, the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. They say no investigation is ongoing because no one has come forward with a complaint.
Intention to intimidate?
El Jones, Halifax's former poet laureate and a well-known, outspoken activist, said she is not surprised she ended up on the list.
"You hope that this is just some form of extreme reaction that's perhaps just intended to intimidate people," said Jones.
"[But] you have to take seriously the intent behind it, which is an attempt to harm."