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Toronto-founded Dominion Voting Systems is suing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for defamation for spreading a ‘viral disinformation campaign about Dominion’

Toronto-founded Dominion Voting Systems is suing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for defamation for spreading a ‘viral disinformation campaign about Dominion’
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In the aftermath of the U.S. Presidential election, while the former president and his allies directed baseless accusations of voter fraud at public officials and groups responsible for operating the 2020 elections, Dominion Voting Systems cautiously increased security at its offices across North America — including in Toronto’s Chinatown, where the company began.

The barrage of hateful messages directed toward Dominion’s employees and founders included violent messages and bomb threats, the company wrote in a court filing on Monday. Though it’s now headquartered in Denver, Col., the company’s CEO, John Poulos, said that all Dominion offices were targeted.

“Our office at Spadina is pretty small, and we only have a handful of employees working there. But in the period following the election we did have to put security on our premises,” Poulos told the Star on Monday.

The company has now filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, lawyer for Donald J. Trump and the former mayor of New York City, accusing him of spreading a “viral disinformation campaign about Dominion” that resulted in targeted harassment and threats of violence.

Dominion is seeking $1.3-billion (U.S.) in damages.

The chaotic string of events is a far cry from what Poulos expected when he founded the company in 2002, after graduating from the University of Toronto.

In the court filing, lawyers for the company note that, contrary to the belief Dominion was founded in Venezuela to rig elections for former president Hugo Chavez, the company was in fact conceptualized in Toronto in Poulos’ basement as a way to help blind people vote using paper ballots.

“We wanted to figure out how we could help any voter, of any physical or language ability, have the same voter experience that you and I would have in a federal or provincial election,” Poulos told the Star. “The old way of voting, if you were blind, was by relying on a complete stranger to mark your ballot for you. We wanted to change that.”

Poulos founded the company with a dozen of his colleagues from U of T’s engineering department, starting with a few local elections in Ontario. The first investor, he says, was his sister.

The Toronto-based start-up — named after the Dominion Elections Act of 1920, a piece of legislation that expanded voting rights in Canada — went from operating machines in a 2003 regional election in Quinte West, Ont., to operating in roughly 150 municipalities and several provincial elections by 2011. By the late-aughts, the company had expanded to the United States and was operating in New York at the time of the 2008 U.S. presidential elections.

The company grew fast enough to earn the second spot on Deloitte’s list of the 50 fastest-growing Canadian tech firms in 2009.

In the weeks following the 2020 presidential election, Dominion’s Chinatown location became the subject of conspiracy theories both local and abroad.

Joe Warmington, a writer for the Toronto Sun, posted a photo of the company’s office building to Twitter a few weeks after the presidential election had concluded.

“The lights were on late last night in the building in Toronto’s #Chinatown which has #DominionVotingSystems listed on 2nd floor and #Tides group on 3rd,” Warmington tweeted , accompanied by a photo of the Robertson Building. “There was a security guard on both sides of Spadina Ave. building which boasts social work spaces and green roof.”

The tweet reverberated within QAnon circles and was shared alongside screenshots of the building’s website and Dominion’s office phone number.

Warmington deleted the post after Twitter users pointed out that the lights were actually coming from the fourth floor, which hosts Workhaus, a rentable coworking space unaffiliated with Dominion.

A building operator for the Robertson Building, who asked not to be named, said he has been contacted by the public several times since the election. When asked why, he replied, “I don’t know, man. Something to do with Donald Trump.”

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The disinformation surrounding Dominion’s voting machines is par for the course given the political climate in the United States, said Carmen Celestini, a professor at the University of Waterloo and a fellow at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

“Conspiracy theories like these, which are encouraged by people like Rudy (Giuliani), tap into some already-held beliefs that people in groups like QAnon have,” Celestini said. “They’re getting this information not just from Giuliani but from OANN (One America News Network), YouTube shows, podcasts. If you’re in a social media bubble with only these sources, you get sucked down that rabbit hole quickly.”

Groups like QAnon — a cult which, in a sentence, believes that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global sex-trafficking ring and plotting against Trump — are among many far-right movements that have provoked civil unrest since a majority of Americans voted to elected Joe Biden as President of the United States in November.

The groups, including militias and terrorist organizations, have targeted public officials and private companies with intimidation and violence.

In its lawsuit against Giuliani, Dominion argues that the attorney played a key role in promoting such civil unrest.

“Hundreds of people believed the Big Lie about Dominion with such devotion that they took the fight from social media to the United States Capitol to #StopTheSteal,” the company wrote in court documents, referring to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“Having been deceived by Giuliani and his allies into thinking that they were not criminals — but patriots ‘Defend(ing) the Republic’ from Dominion and its co-conspirators — they then bragged about their involvement in the crime on social media.”

The company said it spent more than $565,000 on private security for its employees following the election.

On his radio show Monday, Giuliani said he would fight Dominion’s lawsuit in court.

“By fight, I don’t mean, don’t mean any words of violence. I fight in the courtroom, you know? That’s what I always mean when I talk about fight,” Giuliani said.

Dominion has said it is not finished filing defamation lawsuits against those who spread disinformation about the company. It filed a lawsuit against Sidney Powell, another attorney allied with Trump, earlier this month, and said in its suit against Giuliani that he acted with other prominent figures including Mike Lindell, Lou Dobbs, Fox News, One America News Network and Newsmax.

“We are ruling nothing out,” Poulos said on Monday. “We’re looking at all the ways the disinformation was created and spread.”

Referring to the 2009 profile in the Star, Poulos said there was one sentence from the decade-old article that stands out now. “Where electorates could tear down capitals if fraud is suspected, voting technology can act to legitimize a sometimes shaky democracy,” he read aloud.
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