Tormenters target Amanda Todd’s online memorials amid police probe
Published Saturday, October 13, 2012 2:10PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:21AM EDT
The RCMP has received tips from around the globe about a teen suicide case in British Columbia that police believe was caused by online bullying.
Investigators in B.C. have received approximately 400 local and international tips as of Saturday evening, 24 hours after appealing to the public for information regarding 15-year-old Amanda Todd.
Todd was found dead in her Port Coquitlam home on Wednesday, after being subjected to vicious and relentless online bullying.
More than 20 full-time investigators are working on the case, conducting interviews, scouring social media and reviewing contributing factors into Todd’s death, police said.
Police have set up an email account, AmandaTODDinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca, for the public to email tips on the case.
However, the online bullying that police believe pushed Todd to take her own life shows no sign of letting up.
While more than 475,000 Facebook users had “liked” Todd’s memorial page on the social media website by Saturday evening, strangers and even former classmates interrupted the condolences to post vile comments and images.
Posts include one, by a woman who identified herself as Todd’s classmate, who wrote: “I’m so happy she’s dead now.”
Police said they will be monitoring the negative posts that have turned up online in the days since Todd’s death.
“We want to gather enough evidence to eventually identify an individual that may, in some way, have played a role in her ultimately making this terrible decision,” RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen told CTV News.
“I am finding now that young women are contacting us and are extremely upset with what they are seeing on social media sites,” said Thiessen.
Thiessen said police are trying to combat online bullying but, it is “extremely difficult.”
“It’s sad to have these discussions with these young girls that are reaching out,” said Thiessen.
One psychologist told CTV News that online bullying gives the perpetrator a certain anonymity that makes it easier to bully.
“I don’t need to see the facial expressions and the hurt on someone’s face. But when I do it online, I can feel somewhat removed,” said Joanne Cummings of PREVNet, an organization that raises awareness about bullying.
Todd shared her story about being tormented by online bullying in a moving video she posted on YouTube in early September. Since then, the video has been watched more than 1,600,000 times.
Todd explains in her video that the trouble began when she was in Grade 7 when she used to use a webcam to go online with friends to meet new people. After being told she was beautiful she agreed to flash her breasts during a webcam chat, but unknown to her, she was recorded and a still image was created.
That image was used over and over by her alleged tormentors.
“I can never get that photo back, it’s out there forever,” she says in the video.
The same images have resurfaced on the Facebook memorial pages dedicated to the teen, with one individual even adding “laugh out loud, end the search.”
Invesitgators have already said bullying could have played a role in the teen’s death.
Potential criminal charges could be laid against the individuals who tormented Todd, said Thiessen, but noted it was too early to speculate what area of the criminal code this would fall under.
Amanda’s mother, Carol, broke her silence Friday in hopes that her daughter’s video is a legacy to others as well as a teaching tool.
“She wanted people to know if you’re being bullied that you have to share it with others and tell someone, otherwise it becomes invisible and nobody knows. She didn’t want anyone to feel the pain that she felt,” Carol told CTV British Columbia.
Carol is setting up an anti-bullying trust fund in the hopes the suffering will finally stop. British Columbians are also being asked to wear pink or blue on Monday in honour of Amanda.
“She had the biggest heart,” said Carol.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is calling for change, hoping to make cyberbullying a criminal offence. As it stands, no laws specifically addressing cyberbullying exist in Canada.
The Maple Ridge School district said that there have been “significant and appropriate consequences” dealt out to Amanda’s bullies. But the school district has not released what these consequences were.
Coroner Barb McLintock said the investigation will be complex and comprehensive. McLintock added the investigation will look into everything from the school and mental health supports that were offered to Todd, and the effects that social media bullying and blackmail put on Amanda.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina and files from The Canadian Press