Amanda Todd was bullied into suicide after a man posted naked pictures he took while on a video chat, and the web hacker group Anonymous tracked down the man they believed was responsible. Canadian police now say the group got it wrong.
The Amanda Todd case gained international attention within days of the teenager’s suicide in British Columbia, in large part because of the story she had shared on YouTube just weeks before taking her own life. In the video, Todd talked about how after she flashed a stranger on a video chat at age 13, the man threatened to spread the photos to family and friends if she didn’t agree to show him more. When she refused he went through with his threat, leading to bullying in school that brought her into a downward spiral of drugs and depression.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have taken the case seriously, putting close to two dozen officers on the investigation, but in just a few hours the loosely bound hacker group Anonymous believed it had found the right man.
As Slate reported:
The police may have been playing things close to the bullet-proof vest, but Anonymous is something else entirely. On Monday night, they released a roundup of personal information—that is, they “doxed”—a Vancouver-area man, claiming he was the one behind Todd’s suicide. They released a cache of identifying information including his Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts, links to his accounts at perv sites like Jailbait, photos, chat transcripts, and home address. And, as is traditional, a bombastic “Expect Us” video.
The Internet cheered. The media made house calls. And the RCMP reportedly dispatched two squad cars to the house in case someone decided to go vigilante IRL.
Only one problem: wrong house.
A New Jersey member of Anonymous tweeted to others to stop spreading the address, that though they had the right man it was the wrong house. The group got other major details about the man wrong, Slate reported. Amanda Todd’s tormentor is 19 years old, not 32, as first claimed. The RCMP told News1130 radio that allegations by Anonymous were unfounded.
Canadian police now say the false information being spread in the Amanda Todd case is slowing down the investigation, and called for people to be more responsible online, the Toronto Star reported.
“We are doing everything we can as quickly as we can. And we want to acknowledge the role of the public in submitting information,” said RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen. “But we want to urge everyone who has been touched by Amanda’s story to respect Amanda’s memory by being a responsible citizen of the Internet and thinking critically about information received online before passing it along.”
The man first accused of blackmailing Amanda Todd spoke out as well, saying that he knew Todd and was trying to help find her tormentor, whom he named. Anomymous then put the second suspect’s personal information online as well.