Stephanie Guthrie vs Gregory Alan Elliott

The Twitter feud between Gregory Alan Elliott and Stephanie Guthrie triggered a vicious gender war that ended in court. It all boiled down to one question: what constitutes criminal harassment in the age of social media?

(Photographs: Guthrie by Pawel Dwulit; Elliott by Kevin Van Paassen/National Post)

Stephanie Guthrie and Gregory Alan Elliott met in person for the first time on April 18, 2012, at the Dundas West restaurant This End Up. Guthrie was a 20-something York graduate with Zooey Deschanel bangs, thick-framed glasses and a large tattoo of the Last Unicorn on her upper arm. During the day, she worked for CareerMash, a company that runs professional workshops for high school students. In her off hours, she spent much of her time on Twitter, where she posted about feminism under the handle @amirightfolks. Earlier in the year, Guthrie had co-founded an organization called WiTOPoli—short for Women in Toronto Politics—that hosted feminist talks.

Elliott, who was in his early 50s, was a freelance graphic designer and divorced dad of four adult sons with an ambitious side gig of his own. In Kensington Market, his street art covered practically every wall and lamppost—mostly, he painted smiling hearts and feel-good epigrams (“Honesty Is the Best Poetry”). He also devised something called “snoetry,” where he stamped his slogans into patches of snow. Like Guthrie, Elliott was often on Twitter—his handle was @greg_a_elliott and his bio read “Designer, poet, lover, friend.” He was bald and goateed, favouring chunky wool sweaters that gobbled at his jaw.

Guthrie and Elliott had followed each other on Twitter for a few months. They both subscribed to the hashtag #TOPoli for discussion of local politics and had occasionally tweeted at each other. When Guthrie was organizing a public talk for WiTOPoli, she put out a call for someone to design the poster, and Elliott offered his services. At This End Up, Elliott sketched out the poster he envisioned, and they made polite small talk. Guthrie later testified that she found him creepy: he leaned across the table into her personal space a little too deeply and a little too often. Over the course of the meal, he offered to drive her home three times. She declined. After they split the bill, he said he wanted to show her a poster he’d designed and asked her to follow him to his van while he retrieved it. She told him she wasn’t comfortable with that, so he went outside, got the poster, and gave it to Guthrie back in the restaurant. Then she walked back to her Brockton Village apartment.

Once she was home, Guthrie learned that another member of WiTOPoli had found a different designer and wrote to Elliott to let him know. The messages they exchanged were amicable: she told him he was awesome and signed her email “XO Steph,” while Elliott signed off with “Love Greg.”

The next time they saw each other would be nearly two years later, in criminal court.

Some people call Twitter the Wild West of the Internet. Since I signed up in 2010, I’ve come to think of it more as a Dantean hellscape. In the lower circles, you’ll find people with a socio-political cause, tweeting constantly to promote whatever ideology they endorse. Much of this has been fruitful: #blacklivesmatter raised awareness for a real-life movement, and the anti-rape demonstration SlutWalk was also organized on Twitter. But descend far enough and you’ll witness baroque scenes of digital violence: mobs of libertarians attacking radical gender theorists, disability advocates warring with men’s rights activists (or MRAs), gun nuts from Texas screaming at each other about the Second Amendment. The lingua franca is that of the demagogue: slogans, finger-wagging, jingoism.

In 2012, the Toronto feminist Twittersphere was a small but robust ecosystem, centred around the #WiTOPoli hashtag. A core group of users congregated there, venting about the portrayal of women in film and TV, gender politics in Rob Ford’s mayoralty, and online harassment, all in a distinctive millennial digital argot. Though I sometimes write about gender and agree with the WiTOPoli philosophy, I generally avoided this corner of Twitter. It was cliquish, and I bristled at the nuance-flattening phrases like “rape culture,” “victim blaming” and “tone policing.” The 140-character limit made it hard to avoid sloganeering.

It was within this circle that Steph Guthrie carved out her brand. As she gained popularity, her Twitter life and her professional life began to overlap. She hosted panel discussions on the dearth of women on city council and Take Back the Block parties in neighbourhoods where women had been sexually assaulted. Offline, she was an ambitious, clever and sincere fourth-wave feminist.

In 2012, Gregory Alan Elliott practically constituted his own Twittersphere—he posted up to 300 times a day. Around Kensington, where he was a regular fixture, people knew him as an eccentric artist with a soft voice and a perpetually bemused expression. But online, he was intense and volcanic. He bombarded #TOPoli with repetitive tweets. He quoted himself frequently and used hashtags so broad they lost all their meaning (#women, #love, #good, #evil). Many women on Twitter recall how he used to insert himself into political conversations to flirt with them—a practice known as “macktivism.”

After their dinner, Guthrie and Elliott interacted pleasantly online for a couple of months. Guthrie hosted a WiTOPoli event and tweeted a welcome message to Elliott, who attended with a female friend. Privately, though, she was uncomfortable with the attention Elliott was lavishing on her over Twitter. In June, after she broke her ankle, he offered to run errands for her, to come over to her apartment, to drive her to the airport, to bring her alcohol.

She knew he posted obsessively, and that obsession seemed to have focused on her—he was tweeting at her several times a day, inserting himself into conversations she was having with her friends, assuming a level of intimacy that wasn’t there. On June 28, Guthrie tweeted a picture from Instagram to her followers, declaring it “the prettiest.” Elliott immediately replied: “No, you’re the prettiest. How’s your ankle?”

A week later, their fragile friendship ended abruptly. Anita Sarkeesian, a York University graduate, had recently criticized sexist tropes in video games. She came under fire from MRAs, who congregate online to protest perceived misandry. In Toronto, there are men’s awareness groups at U of T and Ryerson, and men’s rights activists can sell out lecture halls. Four years ago, the American MRA hero Roosh V. released a YouTube video called “Toronto Sucks,” maligning Toronto women for being fat and having bad attitudes.

Bendilin Spurr, a 24-year-old man from Sault Ste. Marie, was so outraged by Sarkeesian’s criticism that he created a video game where users could assault her online. It was vile by any standards: each click functioned as a punch to the face, transforming an image of Sarkeesian into a mass of bruises and contusions and blood. When players clicked enough times, the screen turned entirely red.

When Guthrie learned of the game in July, she wanted to publicly shame Spurr—she discovered his Twitter profile and alerted her 600 followers. “So I found the Twitter account of that fuck listed as creator of the ‘punch a woman in the face’ game,” she tweeted on July 6. “Should I sic the Internet on him?” She then sent a tweet to the Sault Star account, linking them to Spurr’s handle: “Sault Ste. Marie employers, if you get a resumé from @Bendilin Spurr, he made a woman facepunching game.” It was what’s known online as a “dox”: publishing a social media user’s real identity in the hope of damaging the person’s offline life.

By that point, MRAs were tweeting on Spurr’s behalf, tagging Guthrie in their vitriolic messages. Immediately, Gregory Alan Elliott leapt into the fray. While he echoed Guthrie’s disgust for the game, he also chided her for calling out Spurr. “He’s got 11 followers. Why bring attention to the guy?” he tweeted at her. “Because I think the Sault Ste. Marie community should be aware there is a monster in their midst,” she replied.

Over the next few days, Elliott became increasingly irked by Guthrie’s tweets—and her dismissal of his opinions. “Guy makes a facepunch game, which offended you, and you want him *destroyed*. Wrong,” he wrote. “It’s revenge. If he kills himself because of your orchestrated attack.”

“If you think it’s revenge,” she tweeted back, “you’re not paying attention. I’ve had it with you.” On July 7, she blocked him, which prevented Elliott from being able to see her feed, and her from being able to see tweets he directed at her. He blocked her the same day.

By the next morning, he was trying to make nice. “Next step may be to unblock me and refollow?” he wrote. “Why punish me.” He included a smiley face at the end of this tweet, as well as a hashtag: #Love. Guthrie never saw it.

Over the next few weeks, the Spurr affair transformed Guthrie into a Twitter celebrity. She called it a “win,” insofar as it got people talking about online harassment and sexism. And talking they were: thousands of users around the world were discussing his game. Along with the praise, Guthrie was also receiving death threats from Spurr’s MRA supporters. “I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it,” wrote a user with the handle @Super_Cool_Guy on July 9. “You’re fucking dead, kiddo.” Guthrie reported it to the police.

Throughout it all, Elliott kept tweeting about her. And even though she’d blocked him, Guthrie was as fixated on him as he was on her. In her tweets, she called Elliott a narcissist, a waste of carbon, a serial Twitter harasser. The more Elliott felt attacked, the angrier he became. “I know she thinks I’m a #misogynist, but I think she’s a #misandrist, so we’re both WRONG,” he tweeted on July 28.

Eventually, he recruited backup. Many MRAs are also gamers, and Elliott tweeted about Guthrie through the #videogames hashtag, stoking their anger. Guthrie, meanwhile, had a phalanx of Twitter feminists in her camp. After Elliott called her a bitch, one of her supporters speciously suggested his sons were probably rapists, because that’s the kind of men he would raise.

In early August, a group of around 20 women associated with WiTOPoli—including Guthrie, a computer software vendor named Heather Reilly and an activist called Paisley Rae—met at Rae’s downtown home to discuss online harassment. They talked a lot about Elliott, and made a plan to document his tweets and encourage other female Twitter users who were receiving unwanted messages from him to come forward. Soon after, several women tweeted warnings about Elliott.

What they saw as a public service, Elliott and his supporters saw as a criminal conspiracy. He believed Guthrie and her friends had agreed to fabricate evidence against him. He tweeted about them more than 40 times in August. His messages became focused on Guthrie’s feminist ideology, linked to the hashtags #fascistfeminists and #TwitterFascists. On August 22, he wrote, “Offered @amirightfolks an ‘anytime’ ride…and the nut-job thought I wanted sex? Fuck.”

While reporting this story, I spent an entire day reading Elliott’s tweets. By the time I was done, I was convinced that any reasonable woman would find the sheer volume of his tweets frightening. Then the next day, I read Guthrie’s tweets and groaned aloud. “Why are you antagonizing him?!” I wanted to scream at her. I sympathized with Guthrie, but I found myself questioning her behaviour, trying to make it fit into my own muddled gender politics. If I believed some of her tweets were counterproductive, was it victim blaming? I began to see the story less as a harassment case than a litmus test of how feminism operates online.

On September 9, Guthrie sent two tweets to Elliott directly, asking him to cease contact with her. He did not tweet at her or her supporters for months after that, but he did continue monitoring their feeds. One night in September, Guthrie’s friend Heather Reilly went to the Cadillac Lounge in Parkdale. “A whole lot of ugly at the Cadillac Lounge tonight,” Elliott tweeted. Reilly was afraid that Elliott was there, watching her (he wasn’t). A couple of days later, she reported him to Twitter. The company responded that Elliott had complied with their internal rules.

The battle kept escalating over the next few months, coming to a climax on November 15, when Guthrie hosted an online event at a think tank called the Academy of the Impossible; a hashtag, #AOTID, allowed users to attend virtually. As Guthrie spoke to attendees about harassment, Elliott posted 11 tweets to #AOTID, responding to Guthrie’s statements. He was finding new ways to remind her of his presence. “All of a sudden it hit me just how hard this person must be fixated on me,” she commented later. “Up until that point, I felt frustration, anger, exasperation. In this moment, I felt fear.”

The next day, Guthrie took action. She went to 14 Division with a printed packet of Elliott’s most offensive tweets to her, as well as the tweets she had sent indicating that she wanted him to stop (she left out some of her own belligerent posts). Guthrie emphasized the number of his messages, and the fact of him finding ways around the Twitter block to communicate with her after she asked him to cease contact.

Six days later, Elliott was arrested. A justice of the peace read the charge: criminal harassment of Guthrie contrary to Section 264 of the Criminal Code. He was held in the Don Jail—the Crown wanted to keep him indefinitely, but he was released on bail after three nights, under the condition that he refrain from using Twitter, a smartphone or a computer with Internet access. He was also banned from contacting Guthrie. Elliott had posted a grand total of 50,000 tweets in five years. His last one was directed toward Heather Reilly, whose handle is @ladysnarksalot: “Methinks the Lady doth snark too much.”

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Elliott at that moment: a middle-aged dad handcuffed and forced to sleep in the Don Jail over a bunch of angry tweets. A few days after he was arrested, Heather Reilly and Paisley Rae went to the police to press their own charges, on the grounds that Elliott had tormented them on Twitter after they had asked him to stop. Elliott was saddled with two more counts of criminal harassment (Rae’s charges were later dropped). He hired Chris Murphy, a family friend and former drug prosecutor, as his lawyer.

Detective Jeff Bangild, an investigator with the TPS, put a request out on social media asking anyone with information about Elliott’s Twitter behaviour to come forward. Five women filed official statements reporting that Elliott had harassed them online. Using Sysomos, a computer program that helps police gather online evidence, Bangild unearthed both parties’ tweets. It was a tedious and flawed undertaking. The software allows the police to access users’ timelines, but Bangild did not document every tweet; other users’ messages, which shaped Guthrie and Elliott’s interactions online, were left out of the search entirely.

In the year between the arrest and the beginning of the trial, Guthrie went on a media offensive. She gave interviews to the Star and the Globe. She was photographed drinking from a flask labelled “male tears.” And in September 2013, she gave a TEDx talk about online harassment. “I have a folder on my computer desktop called Death Threats,” she said. “A dominant wisdom that says ‘Don’t feed the trolls’ means that many misogynists and other bigots never have to face their critics. Because their critics are encouraged to shut up.” If Guthrie had entered the brouhaha as a victim of online harassment, she was now emerging as its foremost combatant. Her prescription for dealing with misogyny online—confront, document, warn others—slid tidily into the brand of assertive, digital-age feminism she had been building for years.

The TEDx video was posted to YouTube in November 2013. It generated thousands of vitriolic comments from Elliott supporters. “WOW What an ugly little cunt. Just looking at you makes me want to VOMIT, you disgusting little freak.” Response videos began to appear, calling Guthrie a troll, a misandrist, a feminazi. Deeper in the manosphere, bloggers, Reddit users and posters on MRA forums like A Voice for Men exchanged pro-Elliott messages.

None of this came from Elliott himself, who was complying with the Internet ban—a tall order for someone who had been tweeting 300 times per day. Without the Internet, he couldn’t update his website, promote his services as a graphic designer or execute projects using online software. Within a few months, he had lost a job with the City of Mississauga that had provided the bulk of his income for 15 years.

Twitter is a hotbed of harassment. Its text-based platform is uniquely suited to verbal assaults and doxxing. Its hashtags are conducive to mob mentality and public shaming. And it comes with virtually no accountability—many of its users operate anonymously. Over the past few years, the company has found itself in the difficult position of trying to rein in harassment without compromising freedom of speech, with limited success. In 2013, during the Gamergate scandal, an army of MRA gamers launched a vicious online attack against female developers; around the same time, Twitter introduced a “report abuse” function to deal with threats and targeted harassment. They later banned hate speech on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, race and religion. “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform,” wrote then–Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in an internal memo last year. “We’ve sucked at it for years.” That month, Twitter announced that it had tripled the staff devoted to combatting abuse.

I find it hard to believe this will make a difference. I’ve been attacked on the Internet for years—in response to a piece I wrote in which I revealed I’d had an abortion, commenters on a conservative blog said I was a murderer who was going to hell, and MRAs called me the C-word. But none of it rattled me like the first time I was harassed on Twitter. It was 2013, and a user I’d never encountered before jumped into my feed to tell me he was going to punch me in the throat. When I saw the message on my phone, I was so shocked I actually dropped it. It was the immediacy of the threat that scared me—I read the tweet right after he wrote it; he knew I was seeing it at the same moment. I checked his timeline and discovered a solid stream of misogynistic threats. I yelled back at him for a while, and then reported him to Twitter, attaching a screenshot of the threat. A response from Twitter personnel came weeks later, after the user had deleted both the threat and his more offensive tweets. Since he’d deleted them, the Twitter rep wrote, there was nothing they could do.

There is no specific legislation in place to deal with cyber-crimes in Canada. When Elliott was arrested, online harassment was held to the same standard as criminal harassment: it had to be unwanted, repeated communication, it had to make the complainant afraid for his or her safety, and that fear had to be reasonable. Elliott never made any threats, but the quantity and persistence of his tweets was enough grounds to prosecute him.

The case would set a legal precedent around online abuse, demonstrating that what happens on Twitter can constitute harassment. Other women had reported online harassment before, but it was hard to pinpoint their attackers. In Elliott, the Crown had a rare bird. The tweets were clearly attributable to Elliott and Guthrie. Both parties were Canadian. And most importantly, they’d met in person. If Elliott wanted to escalate to offline harassment or even violence, he could easily do so. According to the Crown, Guthrie had reason to be afraid.

The R. V. Elliott trial began on January 7, 2014, at Old City Hall, more than a year after Elliott was arrested. The first couple of days were largely spent explaining the conventions of Twitter to the judge, Brent Knazan, who seemed to know little about the platform. Nathan Dayler, a Toronto Police Service social media expert, defined tweeting, retweeting, blocking, hashtags and handles.

When the Crown attorney, Marnie Goldenberg, questioned Guthrie and Reilly, there were further digressions to explain Twitter lingo to the judge: “ZOMG,” “concern trolling,” the stuck-out-tongue emoji (:-P). The complainants testified that they had cause to feel afraid, and that the reason they’d spend so much time discussing Elliott in meetings and online was to warn other women about a legitimate threat. Goldenberg zeroed in on the night at the Cadillac Lounge, emphasizing Reilly’s fear that Elliott was nearby and ready to attack.

Chris Murphy’s task was to prove that the complainants weren’t genuinely afraid. They were tweeting about Elliott and including him in derogatory subtweets, he argued. They were organizing meetings about how to bring him in line. Murphy focused on determining Guthrie’s state of mind during the summer of 2012. “When you’re engaged in a back-and-forth conversation,” he says, “it’s very difficult for the objective observer to conclude that one person is afraid. There were numerous examples where they were just taunting Mr. Elliott to all their Twitter followers. You’re not afraid of the bear if you’re going up to the bear and poking it.”

The trial dragged on for more than a year and a half, into the summer of 2015. Sound travelled so poorly in the courtroom that the building managers shut off the air conditioning so testimony could be heard—it was more than 40 degrees. With the heat rising and no end in sight, tempers flared. Guthrie seemed particularly testy, rolling her eyes during cross-examination and answering questions with mumbled “mmm-hmms.” Her responses were so pointed they sounded like hashtags. When Murphy asked how she’d gone from “creeped out” to “afraid,” she exploded. “Feeling creeped out is a type of fear,” Guthrie snapped. “There is no perfect victim.”

Murphy posited that Elliott was not harassing Guthrie but expressing dissent to her, a politician in charge of WiTOPoli. He quoted an Elliott tweet in which he stated that rapists were mentally ill, and asked her if she agreed that was a valid point. She banged her fist on the stand and screamed at Murphy. “Are you kidding me?” she yelled. “I know lots of normal men who have raped. I have been raped by men you would call normal.” The next morning, Christie Blatchford published an editorial in the Post. “The Twitter trial is beginning to resemble Twitter itself,” she wrote. “The dialogue is shrill, some of the players are increasingly über-sensitive and derision is the name of the game.” Guthrie’s team accused Blatchford of victim blaming, while Elliott’s supporters took to the comments section, calling Guthrie a harpy and a misandrist.

By this point, the justice system had devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars to a case that kept veering out of control. In July 2015, Reilly temporarily locked her account, making her tweets inaccessible to the court. Knazan was mystified. “The physical evidence is actually changed because of the technological novelty of this case,” he marvelled. “It’s like writing in invisible ink or a photograph fading because the case took so long.”

The trial finally concluded in July. A month later, while Knazan was working on his judgment, he convened an unscheduled meeting in the courtroom. Only five other people were in attendance, including the Crown attorney, two court officers, Elliott, and one of his sons for moral support. Murphy called in on speakerphone. Knazan had realized that Goldenberg had accidentally changed her argument. Elliott had been charged with knowingly harassing the complainants. Later, in Goldenberg’s closing statements, she claimed that he had harassed them recklessly. It was a minor point that could cost the Crown its case, as Elliott could only be convicted under the original charges. Goldenberg argued that any inconsistency was pure human error. Eventually, Knazan amended the charges to include reckless harassment. It would be another six months before he delivered his verdict. “I’ve done murder inquiries in less time than this,” Murphy told me.

While Knazan deliberated, public sentiment about the trial devolved into ideological farce. Lauren Southern, a political science student at the University of the Fraser Valley and a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada, had been covering the trial for the right-wing website the Rebel, arguing that a guilty verdict would sound a death knell for freedom of expression in Canada. On November 21, 2015, she hosted a full-day live-streaming session on YouTube in support of Elliott. It was a digital-age version of a telethon, complete with performances—Southern sang Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” and Cathy Young, a columnist for the libertarian magazine Reason, read Robin Hood–themed fan fiction. Southern hashtagged the event #freedomoftweets, and it went viral on Twitter among both MRA and libertarian users. A crowdfunding page was also set up to pay for Elliott’s legal expenses. All in, he raised more than $70,000.

Around the same time, a number of Guthrie supporters circulated a call on Twitter and Facebook to boycott the Kensington café I Deal Coffee, which was displaying Elliott’s artwork on the walls. When the owner refused to remove the paintings, a protester went into the café, bought a cup of organic, fair trade coffee and splashed it across a row of Elliott’s pieces. Natalia Jakubek, the café’s operations manager, started her own online fundraiser on Generosity for I Deal Coffee to supplement loss of sales from the boycott. “Please support I Deal Coffee keeping Kensington Market as crazy and unique as it is,” a supporter called C Man wrote in the petition. He had donated $20. “And that all starts with free expression.” After raising $130, the café’s fundraising campaign ended—the boycott hadn’t done much damage after all. “The next art show is up,” Jakubek wrote. “And the coffee flows sweet and fresh roasted as always.”

Knazan read his decision on January 22, 2016. The courtroom was so packed that some people had to sit on the floor, and Elliott supporters milled on the steps of Old City Hall. The verdict was 84 pages long, and it took Knazan four hours to read. When it was over, Knazan declared Elliott not guilty on all charges, and the room erupted in groans of defeat and squeals of glee.

Knazan concluded that while Elliott had indeed harassed the women, it was not reasonable for them to fear for their safety. He conceded that Elliott’s tweets were often offensive, but not of a violent or sexual nature. And Guthrie, he said, had engaged Elliott by participating in an online campaign to malign him, while Reilly’s testimony hadn’t indicated that she was fearful, just frustrated. Much of his decision was devoted to the question of whether or not Elliott’s tweeting on the #AOTID hashtag constituted an attempt to contact the women directly. Given the public nature of hashtags, he concluded, and the political content of the tweets, Elliott had been involved in legitimate debate. While Guthrie had created the hashtag, she did not have a right to control who used it.

Standing on the Old City Hall steps, surrounded by supporters, Elliott grinned, hugged his sons and told the press that he was planning to return to Twitter. Later that day, he sent out his first tweet in three years. “ ‘You can stand for something, but you can’t misunderstand for something.’ —Gregory Alan Elliott #freedomoftweet #thankyou #3years2months.” More than 1,400 supporters retweeted it.

It may be true that Guthrie and Reilly weren’t afraid of Elliott. And yet I’m not sure that diminishes the vileness of his harassment. Guthrie’s tweets and subtweets and interviews and talks and testimony made it clear that even if she wasn’t afraid, she was miserable, and unable to carry on with her online life. She was tormented by Elliott’s attempts to insert himself into her conversations. And the feeling of being ground down by persistent attacks is one that many Twitter users are familiar with.

Maybe the issue isn’t whether or not Elliott criminally harassed Guthrie, but why we’ve defined criminal harassment in such a way that it doesn’t account for other forms of stress that are equally punitive as fear. Elliott’s supporters made a big fuss over the idea that conviction might enshrine censorship online. If people are being run offline by persistent harassment, that’s censorship by other means.

In the dusty crevices of the Internet, artifacts of the Elliott-Guthrie debacle still remain. There is an image of a tombstone on the website where Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian once bloodied screens. Battles still rage in the comments section of Christie Blatchford’s Post columns about the trial and underneath Guthrie’s TEDx talk. Since the trial, Guthrie has been subjected to constant harassment on social media. Both she and Reilly took their accounts private, and Guthrie scrubbed the Internet of all direct contact information. She who lives by the tweet shall die by the tweet.

Elliott still owes tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills. He’s regaining some work, but the lucrative City of Mississauga contract is gone. “Make no mistake, my client’s life was ruined,” says Chris Murphy. For all his financial woes, Elliott has become something of a civil rights martyr among both the MRA and libertarian crowds. He is regularly cited as a hero of free speech, a man who was imprisoned for disagreeing with feminists. You can buy Greg Elliott T-shirts through his website, and he is planning to write a book.

Elliott continues to tweet constantly, now with an even narrower animus directed at women, feminists and so-called social justice warriors. If he wasn’t an MRA before, he certainly is now. He seems vindicated, and he enjoys the attention, but there’s a deeper anger in his tweets that wasn’t there in 2012. Last March, on International Women’s Day, Elliott addressed Guthrie for the first time since 2012, using her handle as a hashtag. “I hear ‘drinking male tears’ leads to ‘throwing urine at women.’ #amirightfolks,” he tweeted.

(Photographs: Guthrie by Pawel Dwulit; Elliott by Kevin Van Paassen/National Post)

More Features

32 thoughts on “How the city’s craziest Twitter war ended in court

  1. No mention of Guthrie organizing a concerted effort to slander Elliot as a pedophile after she blocked him in order to provoke him to respond? Or of the fake twitter account impersonating Elliot that was tweeting homophobic slurs admitted as evidence into the case? smh fam

  2. FaceBitch and TwitTwat: If you’re not under 16 years old and you spend hours a day on these sites you should probably go into therapy because you have a serious case of arrested development. I have enormous respect for artists but Elliot is obviously OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and Guthrie suffers from a nasty case of the LTDGS (Less Than Desirable Girl Syndrome) aggravated by a MEMPMIC condition (Men are Evil and Must Pay for My Inferiority Complex).
    Elliot’s first mistake was showing interest in a much younger LTDG. It no doubt reminded Guthrie that nature hadn’t been as kind to her as it had to those who snagged all the hunky young men with pedigrees. When a middle aged bald guy hits on you it’s an unwelcome reminder that life just isn’t fair and one must double one’s efforts to emasculate every unwitting male that strays from the safety of the herd to scratch an LTDG itch.

  3. These two folks deserve each other and should just f**k.
    Search the Rehtaeh Parsons story for perspective.

  4. ^ This is the way MRAs think, it seems: a garbled mishmash of pseudo-evolutionary psychology (“safety of the herd”, etc.) and bizarre hints of a creepily rigid view of what they believe to be appropriate relations between men and women.

  5. Did they really teach you that any man complaining or disagreeing with this marxist-like feminism is an MRA ?!
    Did they teach you that counter-speech is violence because they can’t conceive they are wrong , manichean and regressive ?
    What about an article on the lack (and the refusal) of intellectual diversity in gender studies ..?
    You know…people forcing other people to believe racism/sexism is linked to power as if this definition was unquestionable or claiming that people are representative of entire social classes in order to justify hatred / discrimination , etc ?
    Did they teach you what apologetic is ?

  6. Nothing is more “creepily rigid” than the slaves to political correctness. These conformists, if they are male, won’t be happy until they can lactate and drone their way into the hellish hive mind of a radical feminist out to castrate alpha males.
    These types are easy to spot. They all dress like prepubescent nerds and, ironically, are the West’s version of the eunuchs who were employed to guard the mistresses of alpha males in ancient eastern societies. Today’s politically correct male eunuch is more drone than body guard. TwitTwat and FaceBitch their preferred method of subservient self castration.

  7. Nothing is more creepily rigid than a lactating eunuch? Do tell. Actually, please don’t.

  8. Was that a TwitTwat, Greg? Lol
    TwitTwat and FaceBitch are the final frontier of the dumbing down of Americans and their enablers/imitators. Junk food and junk media = junk intellects.

  9. I have been under a rock and missed this story when it happened. It is a pretty interesting read. However, I feel you didn’t establish in your story what he did beyond tweet at her a lot. For that reason it makes her sounds a bit crazy and vindictive. Maybe I am missing something.

  10. ***Trigger Warning***
    This will be upsetting to those who can’t handle the truth.
    While this article was balanced and in depth, Sam, you’re right about there being an omission. During the trial the judge received a letter from someone who attended a private meeting with Guthrie and Reilly to discuss a plan to frame Elliott. The following is taken from an article by Christie Blatchford:

    “Ontario Court Judge Brent Knazan came into court Thursday to announce he had received a letter from a stranger making the startling allegation the complaint he is hearing “is fraudulent, or worse.”
    According to the letter, parts of which the judge read aloud in open court, the person claimed to be a former acquaintance of the three complainants and alleges they “conspired, in my presence, to fabricate a criminal harassment complaint” against Mr. Elliott.
    When the meeting ended, Mr. Murphy (Elliott’s lawyer) alleged in January, the attendees “had a plan to deal with Mr. Elliott … Each of them had a role.”
    At one point, he told the judge, “It may be that at that meeting, a conspiracy to commit a criminal offence took place — to criminally harass Mr. Elliott, to commit mischief and interfere with his ability to enjoy Twitter.”
    Given that all this happened well in advance of the letter being sent — the judge’s announcement and the letter appeared to take both Mr. Murphy and Crown attorney Marnie Goldenberg completely by surprise — it renders at least some of the writer’s allegations relevant and appears to lend them a little heft.
    Were the people at the meeting — all the complainants attended, remember — just talking about what they could do to stem the oft-misogynistic ramblings on Twitter or did they hatch a plan to target Mr. Elliott, to make an example of him?”

    Most judges are experts in sizing up people. Guthrie was short tempered and rude in court when responding to questions from the defendant’s lawyer and the judge didn’t buy her sob sister story.

  11. This reminds me of the old saying that in politics, the smaller the stakes the more vicious the fight.

    Get a life people and stop clogging up the court system.

  12. Ms. Kimball,

    Thanks you for pointing out that my tweets seem angrier than before my arrest. I may be suffering from PTSD?

    I can’t help but feel your article has been over-edited by Sarah Fulford, an admitted supporter of Black Lives Matter supporter Desmond Cole. Too bad that your editor may have limited your journalistic integrity. BTW, Cole is also a friend of Toronto Councillors Shelley Carroll and Mike Layton… Proof here…

    Desmond Cole “hanging” with Deputy Sloly and Paisley Rae (scroll to bottom for photo taken by Cole of the Sloly and Rae):

    Interestingly, these Councillors are friends with Stephanie Guthrie and the third complainant Paisley Rae. Paisley Rae ASSISTED Toronto Police Services Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly and the Twitter Trial detectives/officers in setting up TPS Social Media Department TWO YEARS BEFORE MY ARREST. Real investigative journalists and my supporters have extensive evidence of these collaborative connections, as these politicians, police and activists who fancy themselves “Social Media Experts” left all of their communications on Twitter… for years. We have it all screen captured and saved, in many locations.

    Here are EIGHT interesting facts about the Twitter Trial:

    We have FULL evidence of the three complainants asking Deputy Sloly to #hirepaisley on Twitter. Paisley Rae was always trying to get TPS employment for herself and others… and we have evidence of that too. We have all of the tweets between Sloly and Rae back to 2010. FYI, Deputy Police Chief Peter Sloly has recently left TPS.

    We have evidence of Toronto Police Services Corporate Communications Social Media Officer, Scott Mills, gushing his support for Paisley Rae who he called “the ultimate public servant”. We have Sloly, Mills and others tweeting thanks to Rae for her help in setting up Toronto Police Services Corporate Communications Social Media Department. Of course, most of these tweets have been removed from Twitter… after we documented them. Here…

    I was the top political tweeter in Canada back in 2010, as were numerous Liberal Politicians in Parkdale, Toronto, Ontario and across Canada… some with connections to TPS and Paisley Rae. These politicians have since deleted their Twitter accounts… after we documented them.

    Some smart members of Toronto Police and the Toronto Media scrubbed their Twitter accounts soon after my arrest in 2012. As did some prominent members of the Toronto Media. If you were to look over my 50,000 tweets, you may come to the conclusion that top persons in the Liberal Party of Canada wanted me off the internet long enough to get Justin Trudeau in as Prime Minister. Maybe?

    Firstly, there was an orchestrated campaign of online intimidation. Parody Gregory Alan Elliott accounts created by pro-Liberal Party tweeter(s) back in 2010. Then again in 2012… …This was not “a war of hashtaggers” as much as it was those with political power (and those seeking political power) trying to dominate social media. And, they used Social Justice activists and Police as their weapons of choice.

    Also, note that if Social Justice activists “generate news” then they can give their friends in the Media exclusive interviews, thus benefitting their friends careers. Here…

    My lawyer only presented a small fraction of the evidence we gathered in my defence. In my opinion, based on this evidence, the Twitter Trial was nothing more than corrupt Canadians in positions of power trying to silence me, an artist and political watchdog/whistleblower. Early in 2012, after I called out then MP Justin Trudeau for tweeting that his Blackberry was “a piece of sh-t”… Trudeau’s @JustinPJTrudeau Twitter account was deleted/scrubbed… presumably by his handlers. Coincidently, a few weeks later Stephanie Guthrie tweeted a request for a logo designer. Also very interesting, Guthrie’s cofounder of WiTOpoli, Jessica Spence has a past that connects her to the top of the Liberal Party of Canada AND Ontario’s Office of the Attorney General… Here is her Linked-In profile…

    There is SO MUCH MORE to discover about the Twitter Trial. Sad, that you cannot publish an investigative piece without an editor removing most of the good parts… I am assuming that you may have tried.

    The thing that truly makes me saddest is that, now, Justin Trudeau, an apparent “simpleton”, is Canada’s Prime Minister. And his wife is horribly tone deaf.


    P.S. There is an online movement currently trying to get Social Justice courses suspended in Colleges and Universities around the world. This is a good start. Our children attending places of higher learning should not be made political pawns by our corrupt elected officials.

    P.P.S. FYI… The judge determined that using a person’s @name in a tweet is NOT tweeting AT that person. Also, I counted ALL of my tweets in police evidence and compared them to my TOTAL tweets over the same timeframe… ALL of my tweets to or about the three complainants were less than 0.5 per cent of my tweets. So, honestly, I just wasn’t “into them” that much. Most of my tweets were helpful up until July 7, after which, my tweets were defensive. IMO, based on EVIDENCE, they attacked me.

    But why take MY opinion… listen to an real investigative reporter with 42,100 followers on YouTube. She thinks Guthrie is guilty of the crimes she accuses other of… no really… Here…

  13. FYI… The judge determined that using a person’s @name in a tweet is NOT tweeting AT that person. Also, I counted ALL of my tweets in police evidence and compared them to my TOTAL tweets over the same timeframe… ALL of my tweets to or about the three complainants were less than 0.5 per cent of my tweets. So, honestly, I just wasn’t “into them” that much. Most of my tweets were helpful up until July 7, after which, my tweets were defensive. IMO they attacked me.

    But why take MY opinion… listen to an real investigative reporter with 42,100 followers on YouTube. Here…

  14. Sorry. I was supporting Guthrie’s political cause. I was helping out. I did NOT find her attractive in ANY way. Seriously, she is NOT that attractive. After discovering that Women In Toronto Politics and similar women’s organizations seem to be just political indoctrination camps, I will not support anything Guthrie is involved in. Oh… also the fact that Guthrie and her ilk seem ignorant to their actions as they DESTROY other people’s lives. Proof here…

  15. Or, how about that time Guthrie DURING THE TRAIL tweeted that I may have sent her a death threat… “…in April 2015, Guthrie showed incredibly bad judgment making a false claim that Elliott might have sent her a death threat. Of course, she didn’t take it to the police, she instead chose to take it to the court of public opinion.”


    Also, speaking of police… on the same page… VIDEO of Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll supporting online bullying AT A WiTOpoli EVENT (see #5)… quote by Carroll, who is ON THE TORONTO POLICE SERVICES BOARD… “I don’t think we use it nearly as much as we should to call people out on things like that. We get called out, heaven knows, by the cyberbullies that I’ve mentioned. Where’s our cyberbullies, why aren’t we bullying the people that say things like that.”

    And, on the same page… the third complainant had close relationships with Toronto Police (see #2). And, #6 on the same page shows photo with Councillor Carroll and the third complainant, Paisley Rae. Also, there is a rumour that Carroll’s sister provided some food catering for one or more of Stephanie Guthrie’s WiTOpoli events.

  16. Elliott writes: “The thing that truly makes me saddest is that, now, Justin Trudeau, an apparent “simpleton”, is Canada’s Prime Minister. And his wife is horribly tone deaf.” and “I was the top political tweeter in Canada back in 2010”.

    Thanks for sharing in such an open and fulsome way, Gregory. You have unwittingly now given Ms. Guthrie and her pals enough material to to sit back and point at your compulsive and inane blathering as evidence that their original complaints were justified and necessary.

    Simple question: When did you lose your mind? Was it before or after you took a gander at Ms. Guthrie’s most prominent assets?

  17. I am happy to inform you, Boris Moris, that as of June 2, 2016, The Toronto Star has demoted Desmond Cole (former cover-boy of Toronto Life, and Black Lives Matter supporter) from a weekly columnist to a bi-monthly columnist. Cole is attempting to whip up faux online outrage against The Star, as it is the way of these people. People like Cole. People like Guthrie…

    Also, if I HAD “lost my mind” perhaps I would have found Steph Guthrie attractive. Sorry Boris, Guthrie has TOO MUCH “assets” in my opinion… as do most of her friends who attended court.

    I have never found her attractive. And now, as before, I just find her scary and pathetic.

    In closing, I must reiterate, in my opinion based on facts and evidence, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is an idiot.

  18. At first glance it’s amazing that you were ever prosecuted. What I find especially puzzling is that you were restricted from using the internet while you were still presumed innocent. This had severe consequences for your business. Of course this is the kind of thing that happens to people who can’t control their compulsions. All that is left now is to wonder how a street artist from the Kensington Market falls under the spell of a loon like Ezra Levant.

  19. It was certainly insane, in that a man’s life was run through the gutter for saying it was not moral to “doxx” someone over a political difference.

    Ms. Guthrie and Company, according to court records, were calling for a virtual lynch mob to go after a man for having created a rather reprehensible game – of the same exact sort where one can punch George W. Bush until his head explodes into a pixelated mess. The difference was that the political target was someone Ms. Guthrie and Company approved of.

    This was precisely no different than conservatives ginning up Internet hate against the creator of just such an anti-conservative game. But what liberal heart would cheer for that same mob, turning on one of their own for saying it was a nasty thing to do? What liberal worthy of the name would not take up the banner of the dissenter?

    The entire matter goes not to whether or not justice is involved, but to what extent one’s personal politics jibe with the plaintiffs, who actually held on the stand that Mr. Elliot was in no way a danger to them nor even caused them any fear. They just hated him and wanted him to go to jail for being a political killjoy.

    That this wound up ACTUALLY going through the courts was shameful to Canada and the exact opposite of “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.

  20. Watch yourself. Without any hyperbole involved whatsoever, what you just said is plenty to land you in court as a “creeper”. Hopefully Ms. Guthrie isn’t reading…

  21. Do yourself a favor – in all seriousness – and read some Cold-War Soviet lit, such as anytime Pravda commented on Commonwealth politics.

    You’ll find it was laden with buzzwords which, to someone who had already accepted the official values connected to those words, seemed perfectly legitimate as discourse. To everyone else, it sounded like the unhinged ramblings of someone who had made up their mind before they ever put idea one to paper.

    That’s what you sound like right now.

  22. This isn’t even over yet! Man, when the final record is written, y’all in the press are going to look really bad.

  23. This article seems very bias. The wording indicates a preference for leftist ideology. “Vitriol” and it’s derivatives being used to discribe most of MRA/MRM’s responses. I never really thought about the partiality of Canadian media until now. The editor has made a lot of semantical mistakes as well. Roosh V is not an MRA. At least he himself has stated that he does not identify as one. Toronto Life has lost it’s credibility in my eyes as did CP24 when covering Roosh’s censorship and doxing during his trip to Mississauga.

    I’m interested if you, Mr. Elliot, have a case for a civil trial to sue Ms. Guthries for defamation and lost income? And in case you didn’t know about it, a good way to pay for legal services might be through “prepaid legal” services.

  24. This case is an excellent example of what our younger University alumni bubble wrap generation is all about. The amount of barriers required to preserve their isolated femosphere was out matched by reality, the law and freedom of expression and speech. At all points in this case, Elliott was able to make his points, listen to the other side of the discussion and also showed respect to requested boundaries in an environment that did not support those boundaries and a law and society that saw no legitimate boundaries. Talking publicly about someone or referencing someone is not criminal harassment. Just look at the News and one can clearly see that concept has no place in modern discussion and the only entities in history that use that construct to limit speech and thought are usually religious zealots or fascists.

    However what the real concern here is, is what the Ontario Crown did to push this case to the courts. The Crown knows the law, knows that their resources are larger and deeper than 99% of individual Canadians and knew very well the real punishment was to stretch this case out to bankrupt a Canadian citizen.

    Goldberg needs to be investigated. Why hasn’t our Ontario government hasn’t said anything on this issue? the silence from our government says a lot. It says that their view of social engineering is more important than Canadian human rights and liberty.

    A government should not be imposing their political views at the conversation and debating levels. Especially using the law to enforce those views. That happened and that’s scary.

    The writer of this article did a decent job trying to be objective, but her support for the feminist cause is obvious and her support for Guthrie is clear too. But does she even understand the gravity of the case? Does she respect her own usage of freedom of the press? freedom of speech? freedom to debate without fear of legal criminal recourse? When a government uses it’s unlimited resources to prosecute an individual disagreeing with a political or ideological view, that is scary and it leads to scary events in the future.

    While the case was won for the people, the war is not being won. The government has not acknowledged the abuse of power, has not acknowledged that the Crown over stepped and has not acknowledge the wrongs it did to a law abiding Canadian citizen. In fact the current government thinks it should have won this case and should be allowed to repress dissenting opinions.

    Ms Kimball, I would like to hear your opinion on those points?

  25. ya, that was pretty obvious sexism and stereo-typing of men throughout the article. Modern feminism basically labels any man sticking up for his rights as an MRA (as if that is supposed to be an insult, but it’s a label) and they use that as a label to signal to other feminists that they think the individual is crazy or insane.

    what I find ironic is, is no matter how much effort 4th wave feminists try to fight men’s rights, they are creating more and more members and providing free advertisement for MRA’s! every time they label someone as an MRA…well…that person then looks up what MRA’s are talking about to see if they are one and more often than not, they’ll agree with MRA’s. The support is growing very very fast. That’s exactly how I became aware of MRA’s. I disagreed with a commenter on CBC and she (I’m assuming a she) called me an MRA. I had no idea what it was, I was just defending a civil liberty at the time. I looked it up and agreed with much of it. I don’t subscribe or claim to be an MRA, but if feminists want to label me as one, fine by me.

    Always, question everything. No one group has all the answers and no one person is always right, but trust that those leading blind faithfuls can be dangerous and are always a scourge on the public and their freedoms. Just look at 1500 years of Christianity and what it did to Europe! how many other religions were exterminated in the name of Christ? Feminism is a religion and has morphed beyond it’s scope and mandate. It’s not about equality, it’s about controlling the narrative and the power.

  26. Greg, it is obvious to most that your kind offers and intentions when you and Guthrie were amicable, have been abused and manipulated into sounding like you were hitting on her and being creepy.

    Most people realize that they are trying to capitalize on two stereo-types to push that creepiness. 1 you are a man and 2 you are middle age (and then there’s the whole balding and goatee and the insults to your dressing choices…whatever..) . Most people see it, but many don’t, they just accept those stereo-types, as did this writer. She bought into those stereo-types and hence, it is easy to pick that apart from the story.

    I believe you didn’t hit on her but more so, I believe that even if you did or wanted too, that is your right to make that bad choice. For her to interpret your niceness as creepy, says a lot about her (Guthrie’s eyes rolling lol) but for her to try to publicly shame you for niceness? well anyone who see’s it, 90% of the public will see her as crazy.

  27. I have more than enough beautiful sane women as friends… why would I (or anyone) need any ugly and insane women as friends? Only afew of Guthrie’s friends could be considered attractive, and those few are quite mentally unstable. So, what was/is going on? Guthrie spun the narrative to her own desperate and unbelievable reality. And, Guthrie made it MY problem. In the near future, it will be HER problem… We will be using all legal means to make sure everyone who conspired to harm me and my family are answerable for their actions. We will make it a problem for her friends in the media, in politics, in activism, and in policing. This corruption in Canada must stop,

  28. “the smaller the stakes the more vicious the fight.”

    Small Stakes? You consider imprisoning someone over the uttering of their opinion, Small Stakes? You are out of your mind!

  29. “Maybe the issue isn’t whether or not Elliott criminally harassed Guthrie, but why we’ve defined criminal harassment in such a way that it doesn’t account for other forms of stress that are equally punitive as fear. Elliott’s supporters made a big fuss over the idea that conviction might enshrine censorship online. If people are being run offline by persistent harassment, that’s censorship by other means.”

    Would this not equally apply to Bendilin Spurr? As of last year, he hadn’t been able to find full time employment. When I interviewed him, he was auctioning off his vintage Star Wars memorabilia to pay his heating bills. Do you wonder if maybe he’s felt some stress from Guthrie’s actions?

    More than this, you’re proposing we outlaw stress? If that’s the case, I could charge my damn kids with criminal harassment, for stressing me out by demanding an ETA on dinner while I’m trying to bang out an article. My daughter would be able to charge customers at Walmart for stressing her out by attempting to return items not even carried by the store and then getting angry when she says no. My son’s boss could charge him with criminal harassment for booking his vacation time during a hard to cover period. Rush Limbaugh could charge critics for criminal harassment for tweeting at him, “go die in a fire, you fat fuck.”

    Is that really the universe we want to live in?

    “Since the trial, Guthrie has been subjected to constant harassment on social media.”

    Really. In your words, she aggressively antagonized Elliott. She essentially baited him from behind a block. She intentionally set out to damage two men’s lives because they did things she found disagreeable (Spurr for making his game, and Elliott for objecting to her organized bullying of Spurr). And now she’s been subjected to her own fucking medicine, and we’re supposed to feel sorry for her? As far as I know, she hasn’t had to spend her entire retirement fund and then some to pay legal bills to keep her out of prison for what she did to Spurr. As far as I know, she and her cohorts are still gainfully employed.

    Spurr was dogpiled by thousands of Twitter followers incited by Guthrie. This is NO DIFFERENT than what Elliott’s “MRA” and “gamergate” friends did on his and Spurr’s behalf (well, except he didn’t ever ask them, “Should I sic the internet on [her]?” And to my knowledge, Elliott has never been so callous as to say he “wouldn’t be sad or feel responsible” if Guthrie committed suicide because of his actions, the way she did regarding Ben Spurr.

    “She who lives by the tweet shall die by the tweet.”

    She who lives to harass, dies by harassment.

    “If he wasn’t an MRA before, he certainly is now. He seems vindicated, and he enjoys the attention, but there’s a deeper anger in his tweets that wasn’t there in 2012.”

    Gee, I wonder why? Perhaps it could be the fact that a female feminist did her level best to destroy his life because he objected to her attempts to destroy another man’s life over nothing.

    Again, if Guthrie were to apply the same standards of behavior to herself as she applied to Elliott, she’d have also been prosecuted for criminal harassment of Bendilin Spurr.

    “I hear ‘drinking male tears’ leads to ‘throwing urine at women.’ #amirightfolks,”

    That is in reference to a feminist pouring a Perrier bottle of urine on Lauren Southern while she was on camera covering a feminist/SJW protest. Interesting.

Comments are closed.