Amanda Todd: ‘cyberbullying’ doesn’t begin to describe it

Insidious crime goes beyond school yard politics turned digital

In 2006, a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier hanged herself because of what was said about her on the Internet. The media dubbed it the “Myspace suicide,”‘ and it became the first major instance of “cyberbullying” to shock and outrage the world. The term, now infamous, typically describes an online swarm of invective and public shaming in which the vicious social dynamics of the school yard are amplified and rendered permanent by social media.

But that’s not what happened to Megan Meier. Meier wasn’t bullied by another teenager. She was the victim of a sadistic hoax, engineered by the mother of an estranged friend. The 47-year-old mother, Lori Drew, created a phony MySpace heartthrob, a fictional 16-year-old she called “Josh Evans.”  Evans befriended Megan, flirted with her, and then suddenly turned on her. “You are a bad person,” wrote Drew as Evans, “and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life.”  Megan Meier killed herself two days later.

Six years later, we are again trying to squeeze a complicated and disturbing case of abuse and manipulation of a minor into the “cyberbullying” box. We don’t yet know for certain who entrapped, extorted and exposed Amanda Todd. Individuals affiliating themselves with Anonymous have claimed that her tormenter is a 32 year-old B.C. man, and have posted documentation in support of this claim.

Whether this bears out or not, we know from Todd’s own tragic YouTube video that hers was not a simple case of high school social politics turned digital. A stranger coaxed her into flashing him online when she was 13.  He captured her nude picture and tried using it to blackmail her into creating additional child pornography for him. When she refused, this stranger posted the original nude picture in places where her friends would see it. When Todd, ruined, changed schools, he tracked her down and exposed her all over again.

This set into motion a series of violent acts inflicted upon Todd, by herself and by others, ultimately leading to her suicide. Some of this abuse can certainly be called bullying.

But the full picture is much more insidious. It started with a stranger, presumably an adult, methodically victimizing a child for his sexual gratification and for the sake of cruelty itself.

“Cyberbullying” is an imprecise and easily manipulated term.  A child making a negative comment about another child via email would fall afoul of many schools’ anti-cyberbullying policies. Using the same term to describe the crimes of a predatory child pornographer, which resulted in a girl’s death, is reductive and dangerous.

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Amanda Todd: ‘cyberbullying’ doesn’t begin to describe it

  1. What a goddamn depressing story…

  2. “Cyberbullying” is an imprecise and easily manipulated term”

    I couldn’t agree more, need strong new legislation on this.

    • Or we could enforce the laws we already have.

      • They are too vague though, that’s the problem. We need new stronger legislation.

        • I’m pretty sure the laws on Stalking, Child Pornography, and Blackmail involving a minor are quite clear. If you’re seeking clarity elsewhere, you’re missing the point of the post.

          Additionally, I don’t believe it’s technically possible to legislate the what happened here out of the societal norms because the ideas surrounding “proper behaviour for a young lady” are too firmly embedded. The fact that she was the one ashamed and shamed for the initial action she was talked into in a country where you can walk around with your shirt off and not be charged – male or female – is kinda depressing. The only thing more so is that someone in Authority thought the solution to the problem was to take her out of her comfort zone and move somewhere else; almost like it was in the old days where little Amanda was in “trouble”, and simply went to “spend the summer” at Aunt Milly’s farm in the country.

          Authority figures need to catch up to the reality that running away from these events is no longer the solution in a world where everyone’s phone can catch up with their friend on the other side of the planet.

          • No, the laws aren’t as clear as you might think.

          • I don’t know what you think was supposed to be the right solution. And I have no doubt that you do not have children to be making these kinds of crass statements.

          • Why is it that the minute someone says something pragmatic that involves personal responsibility for yourself and your family they’re automatically crass and can’t possibly be a parent?

          • The parents did take personal responsibility in trying to protect their daughter, don’t you think? The girl made a mistake. And some shitbag stalker continued to follow her around and torment her and in the end destroy her.

            Are you saying that the parents didn’t do enough?

            What “pragmatic” action would you have done in their place?

            I would seriously be interested in your thoughts on this. And please don’t try to abstract the issue like the previous poster. Anyone who talks about parents as “authority figures” does not strike me as a responsible adult let alone a “parent”.

          • How about nobody under 18 allowed on the internet?

          • How would you enforce that? Not an entirely bad idea, but almost unenforceable.

          • Anyone with a problem arising automatically has no civil recourse and criminal penalties apply to both parties.

          • Sorry, that doesn’t explain how you would keep kids off the Net. That “nobody under 18 allowed on the internet” idea is what I was talking about.

        • What are the specific changes would you make to make things less vague?

      • Imagine that… enforcing the laws we already have…

    • How do the actions of adult tormentors have anything to with parenting or the children who are victimized?

      • Because it wasn’t just the adult tormentor at fault here. He was certainly the primary catalyst, but his tormenting would have had little effect if her school-mates didn’t decide that she was a target for bullying because of what this guy posted.

        • The druggies, like the sex perverts, can only assure an ever increasing profit from the trade for their wares by first molesting the minds of the young and then molesting their bodies after…

          This leftist ideology in the schools, in society, and in the media says nobody is responsible for what they do, it is always someone else.

          -

          Example:

          President Obama blames the death of US Ambassador Stevens on a damn YouTube video instead of explaining why the embassy wasn’t protected by soldiers.

          -

          This girl had other problems…

          Probably the crowd she had for a peer group and smoking marijuana, or other drugs. (This was not her first attempt?)

          Nobody in this world is responsible for your actions but you.

          This whole media mania surrounding Farce-book on everything from garbage collection to pedicures is ridiculous.

          The media mania surrounding this girl’s suicide is equally as stupid, it ignores the root causes of her insecurities and self-hatred:

          Peer pressures like pot smoking or drugs, lousy liberal schools, lousy liberal teachers, and everyone wanting to be a psychotic movie star in Hollywood… just look at the lead stories in this paper!

          • Go away.

          • So, your point is that marijuana use and liberal mindset are more harmful than the creation and dissemination of child pornography, and the victimization of a child is solely the fault of that child?

    • I agree with you, education, compassion, respect, tolerance starts at home.

      • Farce-book has a vicarious liability for wrongful death…

    • Does Farce-book have a vicarious liability in a wrongful death lawsuit?

      That’s a big dollar lawsuit…

  3. really, really good post Jesse

  4. I don’t want to be seen as detracting from the magnitude of the tragedy in any way, but am I the only one who feels like this wouldn’t have even made it past the local papers if the teenager in question was a scrawny boy with bad acne and greasy hair instead of a pretty girl?

    • not in this particular case, because to reach the same level of obscenity it would have had to be the penis of a 14 year old boy – and that would TRULY have freaked people out.

  5. “Cyberbullying” is an imprecise and easily manipulated term. A child making a negative comment about another child via email would fall afoul of many schools’ anti-cyberbullying policies. Using the same term to describe the crimes of a predatory child pornographer, which resulted in a girl’s death, is reductive and dangerous.”

    True, but the sad fact is that it’s not the kind of story the media wanted, and it’s definitely not what the public wanted. Crime is boring; Crime is something that happens to other people. It’s on the news, and people don’t really care anymore. Changing the headline from ‘Sex crime’ to ‘Bullying’ personalizes the matter and strikes a powerful a cord with parents; people think it’s something that could happen to their kids, so as a result it becomes very emotionally charging, with little room for facts in between.

    Overall, I think it’s one of the most tragic things about this whole story: People really don’t care about really happened, or what caused it. Parents have been becoming increasingly fearful of social networking for years now, so a story like this vindicates those fears because it involved elements of cyber-bullying, even though it was mostly the result of a vicious crime committed by a sick and twisted individual.

  6. I believe this is socities problems because we have forgotten to value life and our children are just memicking what they see and hear. We have forgotten to spend time with our children and but other people, work and our own pleasures in life before our children. Our children would not be so destructive in life if parents took ownship of how we have failed our children and instead of worrying about whether we should be their friend or parent, to many would rather be their friend instead of being a responsible adult. Its our children who suffer because of our lack of doing what needs to be done for our children!!

  7. I can totally get the people saying it’s a societal thing and it has to start with parents and peer group. What parents probably don’t want to hear is the attitude has to be: “Yup, I accidentally flashed my breasts to an internet stalker. Totally thought he was someone else. No I will NOT show them to you – I have SOME standards after all.”

  8. Emotionally torturing someone into suicide is indistinguishable from murder, and ought to be legally treated that way.

    • No, it is not…

      This girl died by her own two hands.

      Nobody owns the life of another, but that is just the crux of the whole issue, isn’t it?

      Moses was the first philosopher who said that our rights do not come from an earthly monarch.

      The left believes the state owns your life.

      • No it is not, I would argue that since it is illegal to talk someone into committing suicide without being charged and tried for it in this country. That it is also illegal to incite the shame and ridicule that was responsible for this girls death. Keeping in mind that if the story is true, it was done originally to manipulate her into already illegal child pornography and then morphed into a twisted individuals narcissism from not getting what they wanted. Criminal pure and simple.

        • This comment was deleted.

          • Clearly I am dealing with a major iq on your side so what’s the point…
            Subject: [macleansca] Re: Amanda Todd: “ cyberbullying” doesn’ t begin to describe it

      • This is just the MOST revolting thing I’ve read so far. Disgusting .

        • Your morals, your code, it’s a bad joke dropped at the first sign of trouble… You’re only as good as the world allows you to be. 

          When the chips are down, you “civilized” people will eat each other. 

          You see, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.

          You have all these rules and you think they’ll “save” you, when the only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.

          I already told you, I’m not here to “save” anybody. I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it…

          You’re a schemer, a schemer trying to control your little world… I’m not a schemer, I try to show you schemers how pathetic your attempts to control things really are.

          I introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos.

          I’m an agent of chaos… And you know the thing about chaos?

          It’s fair…

          • Winston? You’re not smart enough!

  9. Agreed. The term “cyberbullying” really diminishes the evil exploitation of Amanda.
    I think we need to move in the direction of telling our daughters NEVER to do this kind of thing online while at the same time reminding them that there is always a way to forgiveness and understanding when think we have screwed up big time. That Amanda thought her life “ruined” by her immature teenage act is a sad indictment of society.

  10. Exactly. This is not bullying but victimization, torment, child pornography. Great article Jesse. May we protect all people from the manipulation from oppressors.

  11. Im sorry but she was not bullied. She went to my school and she slept with a lot of guys. She bragged about showing her breasts and made fun of girls like me who had none at the time. She slept with a girl in my grades boyfriend and an older man as well, and then would brag about it. How is this considered bullying? She did it for attention. Just like anyone else usually does it. The victims of bullying at our school aren’t the ones who cry for attention, they’re the ones everyone ignores, and they sit alone at school. Do you research better next time. She is not a martyr. She is not a saint. She is not innocent, though it is sad. It’s even sadder when you have to throw all journalistic credibility out the window to appeal to the sheep masses of the new fad of bullying. I might just kill myself if I have to read another biased, faux article.

    • Dear, I am sorry if you are having a hard time at Maple Ridge Secondary (or Port Coquitlam Secondary). Please understand you are not helping your school culture with denial. Amanda was lured by an online predator. She was blackmailed and cyberstalked. She was made fun off online on her Facebook after an intial suicide attempt. She was ganged up upon and beaten.
      These are tragic circumstances not just for Amanda, but also her peers.

      It is actually irrelevant if she “slept around”, if she got confused and was compromised by party habits for a time and all that goes with it. She was a minor and a child who was violated online whether she volunteered her images or not.
      You would do well to understand that.
      You may have had some silly rivalry or antipathy with this poor dead girl, but she was someone’s child. She was loved, she is missed and she did not deserve the shunning and censorship of her peers – she deserved a little kindness or at least to be left unmolested.
      Good luck in Maple Ridge or Port Coquitlam – whichever of the two it is. You kids, are really going to need a lot of help and understanding to finally get your hearts in the right place. This fault finding and blaming of a suicide victim really is the ANTITHESIS of compassion. I feel so sorry for you.

  12. Parents and parents alone can save their kids from such a menace. For their sake, we must use technology and install apps like Qustodio that allow us to watch what our kids are doing online to the extent of watching the profile pictures of accounts they interact with. We should not hide behind the argument that kids also need privacy.

  13. Oh for Pete’s sake! Any intelligent person now knows that the Amanda
    Todd story is almost completely fictitious. Have you not seen all her
    pics online? Or the video? There was no pedophile monster stalker – she
    made that up to cover her actions, and the media lapped it up for the
    sensationalism. She regularly did ‘shows’ and at one point got IP banned
    – which is REALLY strong. I wish the media would finally tell the truth
    – but who would want to be seen to destroy the fairy tale? As for not
    glorifying suicide – have you seen the Facebook tributes? She’s an
    angel; a role model; an inspiration who has made it to Heaven on a free
    pass. There is something odd about this story – but look more closely at
    FACTS please. This shows a woeful failure by parents/teachers/doctors
    and perhaps the police in dealing with the problem – constantly allowed
    to do just what she wanted (online nudity, drink, drugs, sex). She
    called for help and nobody answered? Her mom says she saw that, but
    never bothered to ask. This is just such a joke – it needs responsible
    reporting, not sensationalised nonsense.

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