'It's not true': Women speak out against Charlotte County gossip site

1 / 2
'It's not true': Women speak out against Charlotte County gossip site

It was a Facebook page that forced Fantasia Wong to pack up her bags and move from her home in St. George to Rothesay a few months ago.

The 24-year-old says the page, Charlotte County Whisper, has created animosity in the small town west of Saint John. 

So Wong, who lived in St. George for the past five years, headed for Rothesay to escape the site and the people who use it. 

"There's nothing like it in Saint John. I've searched," she said from her dining room table on Wednesday. "There's nothing like it in Sussex, Grand Bay, Moncton."

- 1 in 4 Canadians say they've been harassed on social media 

- Bully video's damage will outlast posting on social media, prof says 

The social media site allows users to anonymously post whatever they like about members of the community, as long as they only use the initials of the other person.

Other communities have had similar pages, she says, but none as vicious as the Charlotte County Whisper page.

It started out as "St. George Whisper" but later expanded to include the whole county. Little is known about the creation of the Charlotte County page or who runs it.

And while the use of initials might provide some anonymity in larger communities, Wong says in a town with a population of about 1,500 like St. George, or in rural areas of Charlotte County, it really doesn't.

"What people usually do is tag who it's about in the comments," she said. "All you have to do is click, 'View comments.'"

Reliving heartache

In September of 2012, Wong was thinking about breaking up with her significant other, but he committed suicide first.

She said the pain was overwhelming and after resolving to move past it, she only found more heartache online.

"Somebody had wrote about myself saying that I was a murderer, that I might be a serial killer," she said. "They blamed me for this."

The post went on to say she shouldn't be allowed around children. Posts making similar accusations have appeared before, she said.

"To come out feeling strong and then seeing a post like that, it just tears you down," she said.

"It takes everything you've been working so hard for and obliterates it.

"I know it's not true, but you see it over and over and over again and it makes you doubt yourself. Like, 'What did I do? How did I become this terrible person?' That you know you're not.

"But, when enough people tell you that, you start to believe it."

She's also seen posts comparing her to a cigarette at a party, being passed around by all the men.

Page disappears, returns

When CBC News posted on the page Wednesday requesting an interview, no administrator replied. Soon after the page was shut down. But as of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, the page and a private Instragram account were back online, accompanied by several photos. 

Wong said this has happened before and the page always returns to wreak havoc.

Wong isn't alone. Katelyn Bryant, 26, and Tara Linton, 24, say they've also been tormented by the page.

Posts accuse Bryant of being a bad mother and an alcoholic, unfit to look after her children.

She said there was even a post saying she was molested by her father.

"The site goes out of its way to anonymously bully other adults," said Bryant.

She says the site is painful, because in the last 10 months, she has been working to improve her life by returning to college, becoming a mechanic and buying a new car.

She believes whoever runs the page is worse than those who post on it, as they're providing a platform for hate.

Bryant has tried to protect herself by blocking people on social media she believes, are leaking her personal information. But it doesn't always work.

"This morning I posted a photo of my son and I had a little write-up saying, 'I was so proud of him,'" she said Wednesday. "[Within minutes] somebody went out of their way to write on St. George Whisper that if I put as much time into having patience with my son as I do with trying to get drunk, then I wouldn't have an issue."

Linton said she's also been accused of being a bad mother and overweight. In the past, the site has also suggested her children "should be taken away."

"It got to the point that I was depressed," Linton said. "Some of them said I'm the town bicycle, that I'm ugly, that I look like a clown."

No luck reporting it 

All three women feel as if they're at the end of their ropes.

Separately, they've gone to RCMP but were told nothing can be done because of the anonymity of administrators and the use of initials.

They've also had no luck reporting the page to Facebook.

"It's just really emotional to see something like that about yourself," Wong said. "It's easy for people to say, 'Just ignore it, block it, you don't have to see it.' But your loved ones are seeing it. Your friends are seeing this.

"No one wants their mother to see you've been called a slut, you've been called a whore, you've been called stinky online," she said.  

"I don't want my mother to see that. I don't want my grandmother to see that. And it's not true."