An SFU communication professor is urging caution in the case of suicide-victim Amanda Todd, whose alleged online tormentor has been unveiled by a group of cyber activists.
"We've learned through the Internet not to believe everything we hear," said Peter Chow-White, an associate professor with Simon Fraser University's school of communication. "While the intent of these people is probably a good one, we should let the police do their job."
A group of hacker activists, called Anonymous, has claimed to have tracked down a key figure in the events that led to the 15-year-old girl's suicide in Port Coquitlam last week.
In a video posted on YouTube, the tormented teen told a tale of bullying and harassment that started with an online character who urged her to flash her breasts in front of a webcam. Apparently, that same character circulated the image to her friends and school community. Todd became depressed and anxious and was harassed at school.
Anonymous, a secretive group of hackers, claims they know who the alleged perpetrator is and posted his identity online, which is no surprise to Chow-White.
"As soon as we hear someone may be involved (in cyberstalking) there will be people who may try and help the police find these people," he said.
And while the tips they dig up may assist law enforcement, there's a danger that the wrong person may be accused.
"You would hope that people would let police do their jobs and vet these tips, but if it's the wrong person, that ... could become part of the person's online digital identity," he said.
Chow-White said any kind of bullying is a terrible thing.