Online "hacktivist" group Anonymous claims to have tracked down a man who attempted to blackmail B.C. bullying victim Amanda Todd, releasing contact information over social media and prompting Mounties to issue a stern warning against vigilantism.
The group posted contact information it said was for a 32-year-old New Westminster, B.C., man on Pastebin, a website on which anyone can store and share text. It claimed the man frequented websites devoted to underage girls.
"We are aware of what's being posted online and certainly following up what we feel is important to follow up," said Sergeant Peter Thiessen, spokesman for the Lower Mainland District RCMP. "[Vigilantes] run the risk of committing a criminal offence. There are a number of things under the Criminal Code at our disposal if the right evidence is obtained to lay a charge under those circumstances."
Amanda Todd, 15, committed suicide on Wednesday, weeks after posting on YouTube a video detailing years of bullying. Part of the video told of a moment of indiscretion – flashing her breasts on a webcam in Grade 7 – and an unknown male who threatened to send images of that moment to Amanda's friends, family and schoolmates if she didn't "put on a show" for him. She didn't, and he did.
Anonymous is a loosely organized global collective known to use both legal and illegal means, primarily online, to promote free speech, access to information and human rights.
On Monday, the supposed contact information – including a home address – for the alleged blackmailer was circulating through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. But while Anonymous places the person in New Westminster, Amanda's mother, Carol Todd, has said it is believed Amanda's alleged blackmailer resides in the United States.
"The police investigated and investigated; it got traced to somebody in the United States," Ms. Todd told The Vancouver Sun. "But they never found him. Those people are very good at hiding their tracks."
A man who returned an email from the address posted by Anonymous denied being the accused blackmailer, saying the account was recently closed and he had "scooped it up." The Globe and Mail is not naming the man as the allegations have not been proven.
New Westminster police attended the home Monday evening to inform residents their address had been posted online and offer assistance, said Sergeant Diana McDaniel.
No one from Anonymous could be reached for comment on Monday.