Northwestern students listed on cyberstalk website
December 4, 2016
Several students from Northwestern University, both from the Doha and the Evanston campus, have been listed on Canary Mission, an anonymous cyberstalk database that documents profiles of people at American college campuses who are “promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews.”
Labelled as a mission “run by students and concerned citizens motivated by a desire to combat the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses,” the online database has created a blacklist consisting of pro-Palestinian students and faculty members from colleges in the United States.
The website includes the listed individuals’ pictures, tweets and Facebook posts, as well as close connections and organizations they are involved in. The comprehensive webpage is justified in the mission’s ethics policy which states that Canary Mission only collects information from public forums like social media websites or statements said in public meetings. The gathered information is available “in a concise and easily searchable format for the easy access of the general public and anyone interested in tracking hate movements on college campuses,” reads the Mission’s website.
Aneesa Johnson, a junior at Northwestern University’s main campus, currently studying in Doha, found her complete profile on Canary Mission last year.
“When I first heard about it and was sent the link [to Canary Mission], I was like this is absurd. It is a 15-page downloadable document of my pictures [and] screenshots of my posts. It is something a stalker would do,” she said. “It also made me worried because there was definitely an aspect of it that was attempting to highlight where I was, what I am doing [or] what I am involved in, and that definitely makes me concerned about my safety.”
More than a thousand professors from all over the world, including a few from universities in Qatar, have signed a petition condemning Canary Mission. The petition, “Against Canary Mission,” is sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, an NGO that opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. The signatories reject the notion for Canary Mission and other similar websites stating “that there is nothing shameful, hateful, or anti-Semitic about organizing for Palestinian rights on campus.”
The petition identifies the anonymous website as online bullying and an attempt to slander professors and students. It argues that “as individual faculty, we hold a range of viewpoints on Israel-Palestine, we recognize that student advocacy for Palestinian human rights is not inherently anti-Semitic, and that such advocacy represents a cherished and protected form of free speech that is welcome on college campuses.”
NU-Q students listed on Canary Mission did not provide comments for the story.