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Court documents show two London men registered websites against Cassidy and Ridley
Two London men are responsible for registering websites that attacked two city councillors who were seeking re-election last year, according to documents released under a court order.
Court records show maureencassidy.ca and virginiaridley.ca were registered by Amir Farahi and Ronald Young. The websites are no longer active.
Lawn signs - resembling election signs - were also put up across the city promoting the maureencassidy.ca website, and both were linked from Facebook.
The court ordered disclosure of the names behind the fake websites that targeted former councillor Virginia Ridley and current Councillor Maureen Cassidy in the 2018 municipal campaign.
Farahi had denied he was behind the websites in an interview with CTV News in October. He said he was framed and it was part of an ongoing campaign to defame and harass him.
“This experience was an affront to the democratic process,” said Ridley in a statement. “I do not want this style of politics in our community. This was not an attack or critique of my politics or political record, this was a personal attack on me and my family.”
While efforts were made to find out who was behind the attacks during the campaign period, that information was not available without a court order.
“It was important to us to go through the process of obtaining the information and then making that information available to the public,” said Cassidy. “I wanted to find a way to discourage these kinds of attacks in future campaigns by showing that this information can and will be obtained.”
Cassidy and Ridley’s lawyer, Susan Toth of Polishuk, Camman & Steele, said Norwich Orders are orders that direct a respondent to disclose information that is in their possession.
“In this case, Ms. Cassidy and Ms. Ridley sought disclosure orders from all the digital companies involved in the fake websites,” says Toth.
Toth said the order was necessary to lift the veil of anonymity.
“This was not just one off-the-cuff tweet or blog,” said Toth. “Money and time was spent to attack two women candidates. This successful application shows that the internet is not a wild, wild west where comments can be made with impunity.”
And there were more questions raised after a visit to the Masonville area residence associated with one of the names in the documents, Ronald Young.
The couple that lives at the address has owned the house for more than 20 years, and say they don't know anyone by the name Ronald Young or Amir Farahi.
CTV News reached out to Farahi for comment but received no response.
Both Ridley and Cassidy expressed in their affidavits how deeply they were affected by the allegations made on the websites.
Ridley says in her affidavit that the allegations were "devastating" for her to see.
Cassidy's affidavit reads in part, "I felt immediately sick and I thought I might throw up...I felt humiliated and beaten down personally. For my children, I was heartbroken."
As for whether there will be future legal action, Toth says, "We will keep producing that information and releasing it to the public, and then beyond that, maybe that will be enough, maybe we decide to take it further, but its too soon to say."
Holder issues statement
London Mayor Ed Holder released a statement Thursday saying that due to the new information about the smear websites, he will not employ Blackridge Strategy in future.
Blackridge, a company which Holder and others used for website and social messaging during the 2018 municipal campaign, is owned by Farahi.
Holder added, "Nothing is more important to our democracy than a trustworthy election process. There is no place in our elections for smear campaigns such as this, and no place in our city for people who seek to denigrate fellow citizens."