French anti-harassment hotline shut down in 3 days by ‘targeted hate campaign’

French anti-harassment hotline shut down in 3 days by ‘targeted hate campaign’
French feminist activists Clara Gonzales and Elliot Lepers launched an anti-harassment application to help women who were accosted on the street to escape on Friday. By Monday afternoon the pair were forced to shut the service down.

The "anti-relou" (anti-pest) service was shut down after being inundated with "more than 20,000 insulting messages" in a matter of hours, according to an online Facebook statement published by the pair on Monday.

The service provided users a stand-in number to give street harassers so they could escape. Once the person making the unwanted advances texted the number, they received an automated response shortly afterwards that read: “Hello! If you’re reading this message it’s because you have made a woman uncomfortable … It’s not complicated: if a woman says ‘no’ don’t insist. Learn to respect women’s freedom and their decisions. Thank you.”

"We were the victims of a coordinated attack against the service and a campaign of harassment against us personally," Gonzales and Lepers wrote in a joint statement. "We will try to reactivate a similar service as soon as possible."

The “campaign of hate” included death threats, the pair claim, adding that they are “currently implementing legal steps to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted.” The pair, who identify as feminist militants,” allege that the spam attack was coordinated by users on the French website jeuxvideo.com, comparable to the English-language website 4chan with its many trolls.

A similar 'Rejection hotline' service was launched by the feminist pop culture website themarysue.com, whose autoresponder sends the following message an hour after the harasser texts the number: “Oh hello there. If you’re hearing this message, you’ve made a woman feel unsafe and/or disrespected. Please learn to take no for an answer and respect women’s emotional and physical autonomy. K THANKKS.”

Both services were launched amid a rising tide of anger and protest in the wake of multiple Hollywood scandals including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. The #MeToo hashtag quickly became a rallying cry for women across the world to share their stories of sexual harassment in the hopes of raising awareness and providing encouragement for survivors to share their stories.