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Canadian writers, actors join Twitter boycott amid Weinstein sex scandal

Rose McGowan arrives at the LA Premiere Of "DIOR & I" held at the Leo S. Bing Theatre on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. Canadian writers, actors and women's rights advocates are joining an international boycott of the Twitter social media platform today over its handling of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Invision-Richard Shotwell
October 13, 2017 - 12:38 PM

Canadian writers, actors and women's rights advocates joined a contentious international boycott of Twitter on Friday after the social media platform became mired in the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal.

The women's boycott started at midnight Thursday in New York and was to last 24 hours.

It stirred intense debate, however, about whether silence even for a day is the way to fight abuse — a discussion that played out as women of colour refused to participate, noting it took a white celebrity's issue to finally prompt such action.

It all began after actor Rose McGowan, a vocal critic who has accused "HW" of raping her, was briefly suspended Wednesday for tweeting a personal phone number.

Actors such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have joined a growing list of women accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment over the last two decades. He has denied through a spokeswoman any allegations of non-consensual contact.

Twitter's move to briefly freeze McGowan's account incensed users who said far more serious breaches, including threats against women, are ignored.

"Count me in!" posted Canadian-born actor Anna Paquin, who welcomed any men wanting to show their support under the trending hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter.

American actor Alyssa Milano tweeted Thursday it would be her first day in over 10 years off Twitter. "Join me," she added.

Model Chrissy Teigen told her almost 8 million followers that she was "boycotting for many reasons."

"To stand with the victims of sexual assault, online threats and abuse. And to boycott the fact our demented ... president can tweet nuclear threats of war I can't even see," she posted Thursday.

Cam Gordon, a spokesman for Twitter Canada, said Friday the company wasn't commenting. Instead, he referred to prior posts from Twitter's safety branch, explaining McGowan's account was temporarily locked "because one of her Tweets included a private phone number, which violates our Terms of Service."

Canadian television writer Emily Andras, known for the series Wynonna Earp, said the boycott is about respect.

"The only thing I like more than tweeting is knowing women's voices are respected — on Twitter. So bye for now," she posted.

Still, the boycott raised awkward issues for many social media users.

"I'm really torn because women going away and leaving platforms, leaving various spaces, is the goal of misogynists," said Julie Lalonde, an Ottawa-based sexual violence prevention educator with 15,200 Twitter followers.

"They would love nothing more than for women to shut up and go away. So, I think what would have been more effective was if men had boycotted Twitter — if men would have used their collective privilege and power to say: 'We're going to leave the platform until (it) takes violence against women seriously and treats all users in the same way.'"

Still, Lalonde stressed Friday the boycott had already succeeded for the discussion it sparked. What she called Twitter's "hypocritical" suspension of McGowan unleashed simmering outrage over online abuse, she added in an interview.

"This is the same platform that harbours white supremacists. It's the same platform where people can create multiple accounts to target a user like myself and not have it be a violation of its policies.

"It's that double standard that's really, really frustrating."

Rather than take the day off Twitter, women of colour and their supporters used the hashtag #WOCAffirmation to promote each other and lambaste how often they're overlooked.

Tanzina Vega, a national reporter on race and inequality for CNN, said women of colour "are silenced regularly" and that it has happened to her.

"That has to be recognized," she tweeted Friday.

Former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry tweeted in support of "black women on here who deal w/ harassment daily & never get the same support."

Other men joined the boycott, including American actor Mark Ruffalo, who tweeted Thursday that "Tomorrow I follow the Women."

The office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-described feminist, declined to weigh in on the protest. But Trudeau included a pointed line Friday in his speech to Mexico's Senate.

"Violence against women and girls is prevalent in all facets of life, from the studios of Hollywood to the digital public squares to our halls of Parliament," he said in Mexico City.

"As a gender balanced Senate, I challenge you to use your position and power to strongly push for the rights of women and girls in Mexico and around the world."

Follow @suebailey on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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