Canadian teenager Amanda Todd became widely known as a victim of cyberbullying. The man who drove her to despair and suicide was probably a Dutchman. He blackmailed her with her topless photo.
By Frank Kuin
It started as a random virtual contact of two lonely Internet users: in 2010, ‘cutiielover’, a teenage girl looking for attention, struck up a conversation in a chat room with Joe26. It seemed innocent at first, with compliments and flirting. It made her feel good to be called ‘gorgeous’. But the consequences of the online meeting would prove fatal.
In the next two years, Amanda Todd, the underage Canadian girl behind the ‘cutiielover’ alias, became entangled in a web of blackmail and intimidation that was spun by her anonymous admirer. She was driven to despair by bullying over a topless photo of herself that he took secretly from her webcam feed and distributed over the Internet. In October 2012, she saw no way out of her social isolation and ended her life. She was 15.
After her death, Todd became known internationally as a victim of harassment on the Internet, or ‘cyberbullying’, because of a video of herself that she had posted on YouTube five weeks earlier. In the video, a cry for help that has been viewed tens of millions of times, she silently told her story with cue cards on which she described her experiences.
“He knew my address, school, relatives, friends, family names,” she wrote on one of the sheets, referring to the man who made her life a living hell.
‘He’ is likely a Dutchman: Aydin C., a 35-year-old man who was arrested in the town of Tilburg in the southern Netherlands in January. His arrest became known last week when he made a court appearance in Amsterdam. C. has been charged with extortion and intimidation of Todd and dozens of other victims. He was probably a spectator of Todd’s on BlogTV, a site where users can livestream, and where Todd was persuaded to pull up her shirt in front of the webcam and expose her breasts.
That impulsive act haunted her until her death. A viewer secretly captured the image, in an action known as ‘capping’. As is customary in the world of ‘cappers’, the topless picture of Amanda Todd ended up on a porn site. A year later, links to that site were sent to her friends on the social network Facebook – possibly from the Netherlands, by C.
Todd fell into a downward spiral of stress and depression. After the photo circulated at her school in Port Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast, she became a target of bullying. She was called ‘porn star’, ‘camera whore’ and other names. In her YouTube video, she describes her feelings of despair, as well as an incident where she was beaten up. “I felt like a joke in this world.”
“I can never get that photo back”
To escape the stigma, she changed schools in late 2011. But she could not shake off her tormentor: under the name Tyler Boo, he made a Facebook page presenting himself as a future student of the new school. He befriended other students – and then changed his profile picture to the topless photo of Todd. He put her under pressure: perform more ‘shows’ on the webcam, or the topless photo will be sent to more friends.
“I can never get that photo back,” Todd wrote in her video. “It’s out there forever.”
Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, took the threats to police, but was told little could be done, she said in an interview with the CBC’s Fifth Estate. Amanda was advised to close down all her internet profiles. Carol Todd suggested to police that they take over Amanda’s online identity to get in touch with the stalker. That did not happen.
But just as Amanda did not suspect that her admirer had evil intentions and could make her life a living hell, the stalker had no idea how famous his victim would become. Todd gained fame in Canada and abroad with her video. The premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, responded to Amanda’s death with her own video message, in which she called for a tougher approach to cyberbullying.
Because Amanda Todd’s case is not unique: other underage girls are also targeted by ‘cappers’ who persuade them to take off their clothes, and then extort them by exploiting the images as child pornography. The term for such blackmail is ‘sextortion’: sexual extortion without physical contact. The practice does not usually involve money; perpetrators are after a sense of power, along with sexual satisfaction.
After her death, the police investigation into her case intensified. According to police in Port Coquitlam, international cooperation led to the arrest of Aydin C. Because of the notoriety of the Amanda Todd case in Canada, authorities in B.C. have said they would like to prosecute him. They want the Canadian Department of Justice to seek his extradition from the Netherlands.
Legal experts in Canada doubt whether that will happen. Extradition usually pertains to crimes committed abroad by a suspect from the requesting country. Moreover, C. has already been charged in the Netherlands, and will have to face trial there. Aside from the outcome of that case, he cannot be tried again for the same crimes in a different country.
This post is also available in: Dutch
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