A lawyer representing Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy and former Ward 10 Coun. Virginia Ridley says the pair have obtained a Superior Court order that seeks to identify the creators of websites allegedly targeting the then-incumbent councillors during London’s 2018 municipal election.
Lawyer Susan Toth says the court order directs the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), GoDaddy, Medium, Wix.com and Facebook Canada to disclose all information about those who created the websites. Toth adds that as of Thursday morning, CIRA, GoDaddy and Wix.com had disclosed the information requested.
The websites gained notoriety in October 2018 after Cassidy and Ridley went public about the derogatory and misleading statements on them.
Cassidy, the website maureencassidy.ca stated, couldn’t be trusted, citing her high-profile affair with former Mayor Matt Brown. A similar blog on Medium.com described Cassidy as a “pretend community champion,” who “plays the victim card to save her own neck.”
“She’s in over her head and unfit for public office.”
Ridley, the virginiaridley.ca website said, was a “colossal spendthrift,” and “greedy.” It also accused her of child abuse for bringing her son to a lengthy budget meeting.
A disclosure from CIRA, the manager of the .ca domain, shows the websites maureencassidy.ca and virginiaridley.ca had a transfer of ownership to a Ronald Young of London on Oct. 3, 2018.
Prior to the transfer, the disclosure showed an Amir Farahi of London had re-registered the Cassidy website on May 22, 2018, more than four years after the website was registered by Cassidy herself.
Farahi’s name appears again in the original registration for the Ridley domain, which the CIRA reports took place in early September. Disclosures from GoDaddy and Wix.com also stated that a number of payments had been billed to a credit card registered under an Amir Farahi of London.
Affidavits from Cassidy and Ridley state that the two had suspicions the websites were created by Amir Farahi of Blackridge Strategy, a public relations firm that worked on a number of campaigns during the 2018 municipal election, including Mayor Ed Holder’s.
Toth says the two experienced “an unprecedented level” of personal attacks in the lead up to the election, including Facebook pages and ads, a blog, and the websites. Money was spent purchasing lawn signs, Facebook ads, and the websites, Toth says.
980 CFPL has reached out to Farahi for comment but, as of publication time, has not received a response.
It’s unclear who Ronald Young is. 980 CFPL contacted the number listed in the records but received no answer.
Both Cassidy and Ridley declined to comment.
In a statement, Mayor Ed Holder, whose campaign employed Blackridge Strategy, said he would not deal the firm for any purpose in the future following the release of the court documents. In his statement, Holder states Blackridge is owned by “one of the wrongdoers.”
“Nothing is more important to our democracy than a trustworthy election process,” Holder’s statement reads. “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.”
In her affidavit, Ridley states she tried to determine the website’s owner after learning it had been built using Wix.com and was being hosted by GoDaddy.
“There was a button on wix.com for account holders who have lost their username, login or password,” Ridley says in her affidavit. “This took me to a page that asked me to enter the domain name.”
After entering the domain, Ridley said a prompt came up asking for a phone number. Ridley says she entered her own but received an error message.
“I then entered Mr. Farahi’s cell phone number. I received a confirmation that a message had been sent to the phone number to reset the username and/or password.”
Ridley’s affidavit states that the next day, Oct. 3, both websites had been taken down, and the Cassidy and Ridley domains had a transfer of ownership to Young.
On Oct. 16, Ridley sent a letter through her legal counsel to Farahi demanding an apology for the websites. The letter never received a response, the affidavit says.
The affidavits then reference an interview with CTV London on Oct. 25 in which Farahi said he was being framed and that someone had stolen his identity to set up the websites. Farahi said he hoped to find out who created the websites. In their affidavits, both Cassidy and Ridley said they did not know what steps Farahi had taken.
Speaking to the Craig Needles Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL, Toth said that Farahi’s lack of a response to a cease-and-desist letter sparked confusion.
“I will say that if what he initially said, which is that it was not him behind it, I would think that he would’ve welcomed this kind of an application,” Toth said.
There is no mention of a Ronald Young in either affidavit.
Toth told Global News Radio 980 CFPL that the next step for her clients is to make the public aware of what’s happening.
“We’re trying to be very transparent and provide exactly what’s been provided to us,” Toth said.