Amanda Todd Case | The Canadian Encyclopedia

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Amanda Todd Case

Amanda Todd was a 15-year-old high school student who committed suicide on 10 October 2012 after being cyberbullied and sexually extorted. A month before her death, she posted a self-made video on YouTube. She used a series of flashcards to tell her story of online sexual exploitation, and the emotional distress and verbal and physical abuse that followed her in real life. Todd’s video went viral, drawing national and international media attention. It sparked an official police investigation into her suicide. This led to the arrest of a Dutch man on extortion and child pornography charges. It also led the governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia to pass anti-cyberbullying laws. A federal law that would amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act was tabled in February 2024.

Amanda’s Early Childhood

Amanda “Manda” Michelle Todd was born in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, on 27 November 1996. Her parents, Norm and Carol Todd, separated when she was a child. Most of the time, Amanda lived with her mother. But for about two years, she lived with her father.

Todd attended Maple Ridge Secondary School and then Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education (CABE). She had difficulties at school due to a language-based learning issue. According to her mother — a teacher who worked with children with learning disabilities — Todd’s learning problems often left her at the bottom of her class at school, causing her anxiety and depression. (See Mental Health.) She was often the brunt of jokes from her fellow students. She was involved in cheerleading with the Vancouver All Stars squad, as well as various athletic activities, but didn’t feel she had a normal life. Her mother got Amanda some support to help her develop coping skills. But Amanda often felt alone. She would go on the Internet to meet new people.

Online Entrapment

When Amanda Todd was in Grade 7, she and friends would use a webcam. She started to get messages from strangers who flattered her, telling her she was “stunning, beautiful, perfect.” As she would state later in her cards, they “Then wanted me to flash [expose her breasts]. So I did 1 year later.”

Todd was 12 years old when she bared her breasts for the webcam stream. A pedophile who stalked girls online saved frames of the images and sent Todd a blackmail message on Facebook. He threatened to send the topless picture to her friends unless she gave him a “show.” He knew her address, school and the names of her family, relatives and friends. Todd refused, and the image appeared on social media and a blogTV livestreaming site. During the 2010 Christmas break, the police came to her home and informed her that the picture was being widely circulated on the Internet. Fellow students ridiculed and ostracized her.


As a direct result of being sexually extorted (or sextorted) and cyberbullied, Todd began to experience anxiety, depression and panic disorder. Her family moved to a new home, and she transferred to a new school. But Todd started using alcohol and drugs. She rarely went out.

After a year, the blackmailer resurfaced. He had created a Facebook page that used the topless picture of Amanda as a profile image and had sent it to her classmates. One of the more than 700 messages he sent to her via Facebook, YouTube and Skype said, “U already forgot who I am? The guy who last year made you change school… Give me 3 shows and I will disappear forever… If u go to a new school, new bf, new friends, new whatever, I will be there again… I am crazy yes.”

Amanda was again ridiculed at school. Fellow students called her a “porn star” and “camwhore.” She despaired that she would never be able to erase the picture from the Internet. As she later stated, “It’s out there forever… [I] Cried every night, lost all my friends and respect people had for me… again. Then nobody liked me… name calling, judged.” She began to cut herself, a form of self-harm that sometimes accompanies certain forms of mental illness. At school she ate her lunch alone.

Physical Assault

Amanda Todd changed schools again. Although things initially seemed better for her, she still spent the lunch period alone in the library. After about a month, she began chatting with “an old guy friend” who had contacted her. Todd was aware that he had a girlfriend, but he seemed to be sympathetic toward her and understanding of her situation. As she put it later, he “led me on.” While the boy’s girlfriend was away on vacation, Todd accepted an invitation to go to his house. “He hooked up with me,” Todd said, and they became sexually involved.

Shortly after, Todd received a text telling her to get out of her school. She was then attacked on the street in front of the school by the boy’s girlfriend and 15 other teenagers. In his presence, the girlfriend punched Todd; they all subjected her to verbal abuse, told her that nobody liked her and left her on the ground. Some of them filmed the incident. Todd lay in a ditch until her father found her. She later stated, “I felt like a joke in this world.” When Todd got home, she drank bleach and had to be rushed to a hospital to have her system flushed out.

Following this suicide attempt, Todd continued to be targeted with online harassment from the original blackmailer and others. Her family moved again, but the abuse followed her. She overdosed on pills and was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. Her online tormentors subsequently labelled her a “psycho.”

Suicide

On 7 September 2012, Amanda Todd posted a nine-minute video in which she used a series of flashcards to describe her two years of victimization. She closed with the words, “I have nobody. I need someone [illustrated with an unhappy face]. My name is Amanda Todd.” On 10 October, Todd’s mother found her body in their home. She had hanged herself.

DID YOU KNOW?
Canadian composer Jocelyn Morlock composed a Juno Award-winning classical musical piece titled “My Name is Amanda Todd.”


Investigation

Two days later, the RCMP and the BC Coroners Service began an investigation into Amada Todd’s death. On 15 October, Todd’s name was mentioned in the House of Commons during debate on a motion to create a national strategy to prevent bullying.

Investigators conducted interviews and examined social media sites, as well as Todd’s two computers, in search of factors that might have contributed to her death. They discovered that the Canadian national organization Cybertip.ca, an anti-child-exploitation group, had been tipped a year before Todd’s suicide that she was being sexually extorted by an adult male. The information had been passed on to law enforcement and child welfare agencies but had not been acted on. This was allegedly due to the belief that police could do nothing about it.

Carol Todd also revealed in an interview with the CBC’s The Fifth Estate that, on several occasions, she had reported the online blackmail threats to the police but felt that her concerns were not taken seriously. Reports to police by teachers at Todd’s school who had received the topless photo by email were allegedly dismissed without any action taken, except to recommend that Todd close her Facebook and email accounts and stay off the Internet.


Arrest and Trials

The Amanda Todd case drew international attention. US authorities forwarded the findings of an investigation to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. It is attached to the UK’s National Crime Agency. The information was then passed on to authorities in the Netherlands. Dutch police arrested a man named Aydin Coban. His Internet activities were already under observation due to suspicion that he was involved in child pornography and sexploitation involving 33 other victims in the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, the US, Australia and Canada.

Coban was prosecuted in the Netherlands and sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison. In December 2020, he was extradited to Canada to face charges for his involvement in the Amanda Todd case.

Coban’s trial in New Westminster, British Columbia, began on 6 June 2022. On 6 August, he was found guilty of extortion, harassment, communication with a young person to commit a sexual offense, and possession and distribution of child pornography. The Canadian court sentenced Coban to 13 years in prison. Under the terms of his extradition, his Canadian sentence would be served in a prison in the Netherlands after the expiration of his Dutch sentence. In 2023, in compliance with Dutch judicial standards, Coban’s Canadian sentence was commuted to six years.


Legacy

Amanda Todd’s video has amassed more than 15 million views on YouTube. It made her an international symbol in the fight to end cyberbullying. Carol Todd was harassed online after Amanda’s death. She became a spokesperson for children’s mental health rights and championed the fight against cyber abuse. She established the Amanda Todd Trust at the Royal Bank of Canada to receive donations to support anti-bullying awareness education.  

In 2017, the government of Nova Scotia passed An Act Respecting the Unauthorized Distribution of Intimate Images and Protection Against Cyber-bullying. The first law of its kind in Canada, it enables victims of cyberbullying to apply for a cyber-protection order from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. British Columbia also passed legislation that classified cyberbullying as an illegal form of harassment under the Criminal Code. BC also introduced the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) program to address bullying and cyberbullying in schools.

Anti-cyberbullying legislation drafted in response to the Amanda Todd case has also been tabled by the federal government. If passed, Bill C-63 (Online Harms Act) would amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would also introduce heavier sentences, create new regulatory bodies to protect people from online abuse, and create a commission to enforce the new laws. The bill had its first reading in the House of Commons on 26 February 2024.

Further Reading