After viewing the documentary “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd” I was flabbergasted. I had heard of the story of Amanda Todd after her suicide and her YouTube video holding up handwritten notes regarding how one mistake she made online led to severe bullying both at school and online. However, I did not realize the extent of the story and the blackmail and extortion (sextortion) she experienced by online predators, also known as cappers.
Amanda was a young girl who often shy and withdrawn in the offline world and when in groups, but when she was behind a camera, she was extremely confident and outgoing. She enjoyed being behind the camera and gave her a place to shine. Soon after, she began to post videos of herself singing and performing for others to view. This was giving a vulnerable adolescent some attention she wasn’t getting before, which she really enjoyed and continued putting more and more of herself out there, getting more and more attention. So the next step was getting a webcam so she would have better access to her online world. Her dad was open to the idea, gave her a webcam and her life in the online world became very real and important to her spending more and more time online. Further to that, Amanda was becoming transfixed with herself on the webcam.
Her webcam was a window into a whole new world. She began participating in chat groups on sites such as BlogTV. BlogTV gave an audience for girls who wanted to perform. Especially, adolescents who are exploring their sexuality. This seems to be a safe place for that exploration as you are in your own home and you might believe “that no one can find you behind the screen.” You are able to edit yourself and get a different version of yourself. Amanda was becoming very popular this site and was gaining fans, likes, and views.
This popularity was encouraging Amanda to try new things and gave her confidence to do things she might not have done otherwise. With 150 people watching, Amanda made a mistake that would be immortalized on web for everyone to see and impact her whole life. She flashed, someone screen captured her online and sent the picture to all her Facebook friends (including her mother) and posted her image on a porn site.
When Amanda returned to school she was slut shamed both offline and online. She knew she did something wrong, but there is nothing she could do now to change it. We are in the era of not forgetting. She tried changing schools, but she was blackmailed by a capper who wanted her to continue performing. She was trying to make a change, but the blackmailer continued following her and threatening her.
Amanda and her family brought her story to the RCMP, but unfortunately the online world is much harder navigate than the offline world with very sophisticated scammers and the police were unable to help. Cappers and scammers are a new breed of predator, a criminal with a computer.
Two years after the incident, Amanda was still feeling the torment of her mistake. She decided to make a video to show what she was feeling and people began giving her support. Unfortunately it was too late and soon after Amanda committed suicide. Her case finally became a priority to police, but case is still ongoing.
This story really had me questioning and reflecting on the moral, ethical, and legal issues in the online world. A world that directly impacts your offline identity as much as your online identity.
- I knew platforms like BlogTV existed, but I thought they were a thing of the past. Scroll through and you will still see images of adolescents on this site who don’t appear to be giving off the image you would expect of an adolescent. What worries me is if I (someone who is seen as tech leader and schools and appears to be quite “techy”) had limited information on these sites, I wonder what the kids of parents who are naive to digital culture and don’t have conversations with their kids around digital citizenship are doing to educate their children on their digital identity.
- Should the police have done more to help Amanda Todd? With the digital world changing our way of life so drastically, should there be more of a police presence online? Where is the line between monitoring for safety and the government viewing our personal information?
- How do sites like Facebook allow scammers to have multiple accounts to perform their scams? Should there be more information required on these sites to help protect peoples identity?
- Did Amanda and her family take the steps to protect herself online? I believe there were a lot of missing conversations in this case and even though I believe she was a vulnerable person who was preyed upon and her act should have and should be forgiven, her parents needed to play a more active role in guided her through the confusing time of being an adolescent.
- Nearly all computers, tablets, handheld devices, etc. come with webcams now. How do we protect our children, yet at the same time allow them to use the internet to connect with others?
- We are in a decade of technology that doesn’t go away. How do we build a culture of empathy for adolescents who make mistakes which become immortalized?