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Amanda Todd tragedy causes backlash against cyber-bullies

Amanda Todd tragedy sparks online uprising against tormentors, but police in Canada say it is hampering their investigation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2012, 5:23am
 

A massive backlash over cyberbullying that drove a Canadian girl to suicide is hampering the federal police probe into her death, authorities said.

The tragic case of 15-year-old Amanda Todd has also sparked a national debate on what is appropriate online behaviour.

"The outpouring of support, emotion and information is overwhelming," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Peter Thiessen said.

"The internet and social media were central to Amanda's story and they are central to our investigation as well."

But he added: "One of our big challenges right now is false information being spread by people who appear to be trying to use Amanda's story to do harm or make a profit."

Federal police said they had sifted through thousands of tip-offs since her death last week as they pursue her tormentors.

But her family members have also been targeted, with fraudsters setting up websites purporting to raise money for them and then pocketing the funds.

Thiessen blasted the fake websites and accounts and said that "taking advantage of a family's grief is despicable".

In a YouTube video posted before she killed herself, Todd said she suffered from anxiety, "major depression" and panic attacks after a screenshot of her breasts, flashed in an online video chat with a stranger three years ago, was distributed in her community in British Columbia.

She turned to drugs and alcohol and "cried every night". After several failed suicide attempts involving cutting herself and drinking bleach, Todd finally killed herself on October 10.

On Monday, the hacker group Anonymous identified a man in the Vancouver area as Todd's anonymous tormenter.

The man allegedly tried to blackmail Todd, saying after her indiscretion he would widely distribute the photo of her breasts if she didn't "put on a show" for him again. She refused.

Police said "unfounded allegations", including the outing of the Vancouver area man, were hampering their investigation. Lindsay Ulsifer, the organiser of a Facebook page in honour of Todd, said Todd supporters have been accused of "bullying the bullies" in their efforts to strike back at her tormentors.

Todd's mother believes her daughter's tormentor actually lives in the US. But the Vancouver man's family has been ostracised and others targeted.

A lawyer in the city who blasted internet vigilantes in media interviews received angry e-mails from people who mistakenly believed he was representing Todd's alleged tormentor.

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