Vancouver native Amanda Todd, 15, was found dead last week in an apparent suicide, evidently pushed over the edge by persistently cruel bullying, online and in real life. And now, the vigilante hacker group Anonymous claims to have identified — and unmasked — her virtual harasser. A guide to the developing story:
What exactly happened?
Before she allegedly committed suicide, Amanda detailed how the harassment started in a confessional YouTube video she posted in September. Without naming names, the teen said through a series of cue cards that when she was in seventh grade she flashed a man online. A year later, the man tracked her down on Facebook, demanded more salacious photos, and forwarded her original naked photo to "everyone." When Amanda moved schools, the man reportedly continued harassing her, this time creating a Facebook page using her uncensored photo as the profile picture, inspiring real-life harassment and beatings from her fellow students.
And who is this alleged tormenter?
The hacking group claims that a 30-year-old Facebook employee from New Westminister, British Columbia, harassed Amanda so relentlessly that she took her own life. In a newly released YouTube video, a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask says in an auto-tuned voice that the man "is an abomination to our society and will be punished." Anonymous further distinguishes "Amanda Todd's punisher" in a post on Pastebin, saying: "This is the pedophile that social engineered Amanda Todd into supplying him nude pictures." They include his online user name, birthday, and location.
What does the alleged harasser say?
He doesn't appear to have spoken publicly since Anonymous unmasked him. But earlier this week, he reportedly appeared in court on unrelated charges of sexual assault and sexual interference with a minor. At the time, he claimed he was Amanda's friend and reportedly blamed a man in New York for harassing her.
Is there further proof against this man?
Yes. Vice magazine published information that allegedly connects Amanda and the man, including screenshots from Facebook posts and "jailbait" website accounts. The man allegedly posted images of nude teenagers to such a forum and reportedly "made it known he was blackmailing underage girls."
How are people reacting to this awful tale?
Obviously, this guy is "in for a world of pain," says Laura Beck at Jezebel. Thankfully, there's "steady momentum in the direction of increased intolerance of this specific brand of internet bullshit." But Anonymous has hardly solved the larger online bullying epidemic, says Patrick McGuire at Vice. "The vigilante justice of Anonymous is simply a band-aid on a very serious and quickly growing problem online that is putting vulnerable young girls like Amanda Todd in a very complicated and destructive type of danger." The disturbing trend requires further examination "under a more complicated lens."
Editor's note: This article has been revised since it was first published.