Did Hacker Group Anonymous Threaten Blogger Who Posted Images of Cyber-Bullying?
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In October, I wrote an article about Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen who was so severely cyber-bullied that she committed suicide. Now, in a strange turn of events, I am being threatened in her name.
Someone claiming to be from the hacker group Anonymous sent me an email recently demanding I remove images created by Todd's bullies from the piece. My intention in using these images was to condemn bullying by showing the horrors Todd experienced, so you can imagine my surprise on Sunday when I received this:
From: Anonymous <Redacted@redacted.com>Subject: Amanda Todd http://fakepretty.com/
You say this is disgusting, yet you publish the pictures... Are you fucking stupid. Carol, the mother is requesting you remove them.
I will be checking back in 7 days to see if you have updated the article. You fucking moron.
This mail is sent via contact form on Fake Pretty http://fakepretty.com
Whether or not this person is a hacker, and whether or not I should be "expecting" Anonymous on my site, outside my home, or for dinner is unclear. Seven days have passed, and though I feel safer now than I did yesterday, I still have no idea what to expect. However, regardless of the legitimacy of this threat, the email raises a number of ethical questions.
Am I being bullied by this alleged Anonymous, or am I the bully?
In the days since I received it, this email has been pretty much all I think about. I have contacted my web host and searched the Twitterverse, trying to uncover my harasser to no avail. I have scoured the Internet for related hashtags and learned more about #Anonymous than intended, as I sit here contemplating my decision and its potential outcomes.
While I feel that using images portraying the horrors of cyber-bullying is legitimate in the context of critical discussion, am I contributing to the problem by displaying them? Since Todd herself spoke out so publicly against her bullies through the YouTube video she made shortly before she hanged herself, I imagine she would have wanted the discussion surrounding bullying and the Internet to continue, and discussion includes documentation.
I’m reminded of a recent article published in the Jewish Daily Forward in which a journalist writes of her hesitation to print graphic quotes from Veronique Pozner, a mother who chose to view the body of her son Noah, a student murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school. She told the reporter:
“He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth there was no mouth left. His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
Pozner had nothing to gain by describing her son's corpse; his murderer was already dead. She wanted only to shed light on the issue of gun violence.
The mother of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy who was beaten and shot to death in a racially based attack, changed history in 1955 when she decided to hold an open-casket funeral for him and allow photographs of his body.
“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box … No way. And I just wanted the world to see,” she said at the time.
But I am not Amanda Todd’s mother, and since the images are part of a vicious meme that contributed to her death, one might say they are not the aftermath of a tragedy, but its manifestation. One friend of mine said that if Todd’s mother was behind the email, I had better take the images down. Another suggested fear-based capitulation and silence. A third person argued that repeating the meme in any form was lending it credence and that I was dumb not to see the hacker's point.