It’s been a puzzling few days in the case of Amanda Todd, the teen who took her own life after being bullied mercilessly.
On Monday, Anonymous outed a man they believed to be responsible for sharing topless pictures of her over the internet.
They fingered a 32-year-old New Westminster man who they claim allegedly blackmailed the Port Coquitlam, B.C., girl, driving her to take her own life.
However, the man responded to an e-mail address posted by Anonymous and said he was not the accused blackmailer and a man who answered the door at the posted address reportedly said he had no knowledge about the online claims. Police seem to support this, calling the claims “unfounded.”
In a further twist to the story, a man with a similar name does have an outstanding file in Surrey Provincial Court. The 19-year-old was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16 in offences that do not relate to Amanda Todd, Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said.
BUT, when confronted by CTV News outside the courthouse on Monday, he claimed he knew Amanda but was her friend and had offered to help her identify a New York man who was harassing her. He told the Vancouver Sun the “real” tormentor lives in New York and goes by the nickname Viper.
And if it hasn’t become confusing enough, Anonymous also outed “Viper” as the teen’s tormentor. They released the 41-year-old Wisconsin man’s real name, nickname (Viper), e-mail address and profile page from a website known for child pornography.
While Anonymous actions are admirable, it does highlight the confusion that can come when we embark on a “trial by the internet”, especially when emotions are so raw and heated, as in this case.
Sergeant Peter Thiessen, a spokesman for the Lower Mainland District RCMP, said Mounties had spent “considerable time” responding to rumours and issued a warning against such vigilantism.
“They run the risk of committing a criminal offence,” he said. “There are a number of things under the Criminal Code at our disposal if the right evidence is obtained to lay a charge under those circumstances.”
For their part, Todd’s family members say they unsure about the various reports but say police have tracked down a person living in the U.S. who they believed was involved.
Amanda took her own life a month after posting a video on YouTube, where she chronicled in heartbreaking detail her suffering at the hands of her bully.