Lenore Zann, a Nova Scotia member of the legislature, has complained to the provincial cyberbullying unit after a high school student tweeted a topless image of her from her acting days, but the teen behind the tweet says he thinks the whole issue has been blown out of proportion.
The New Democrat MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River called police and complained to the newly created cyberbullying unit after Nic Scissons tweeted a screen capture from the Showtime series The L Word in late November.
Scissons, 17, said the image he sent on the evening of Nov. 29 from his Twitter account showed Zann topless. It's from a scene about an assault in the shower of a women's prison.
He said he sent it along with the message, "What happened to the old Lenore?" and added Zann's Twitter handle in the message.
Scissons said he meant it as a joke.
"I just thought it would be funny, pretty much," he said.
Words exchanged on Twitter
Zann said she noticed the tweet that night and messaged Scissons to ask him to take it down.
"Luckily the old Lenore Zann got in shape so she can kick some political butt! Please remove this photo," she tweeted.
The next day, Zann said, she had a heated exchange with Scissons and a handful of others on Twitter. She claimed the image violated copyright and was also illegal under cyberbullying legislation.
On Twitter she wrote: "Perhaps you've missed the new federal legislation" and "Distribution of this image falls under the Criminal Code. It has been reported."
Scissons replied, arguing the photo was public on the internet.
During the exchange, which lasted around three hours, Zann said she felt increasingly picked on.
"It's not necessarily the image itself, but the fact that someone is tweeting that at me and saying, 'Hey Lenore Zann, where's the old Lenore now,' and calling it porn and things like that. I found that really humiliating and harassing," she told CBC News on Thursday.
Zann said that, on the advice of family and friends, she decided to call the RCMP. She was referred to the Truro Police Service, where she filed a harassment complaint.
"I was being cyberbullied so I felt that I needed to call the police. The police suggested that I call the CyberScan unit as well and that's what they're there for. That's why we legislated them, so that they'd be there to help people who feel that they are being bullied by other people online," she said.
"It was Twitter where I was being tweeted at. I was being sworn at. They were swearing at me. They were disrespectful. It was constant. It was harassment and it was frightening. I was afraid. So that for me accounts for my feeling that I was being bullied. And because it's online, that’s cyberbullying."
Zann said she called police and the cyberbullying unit before she knew Scissons's age or that he was in high school. Up until that point she said she assumed he was an adult.
Parents brought in
Scissons said he deleted the naked image of Zann from his Twitter feed after Zann phoned his father at home to complain.
Zann said Scissons continued to tweet obscenities at her after she called his parents. The teen said that was because he felt frustrated.
His mother, Susan McCarron, said she was angry.
"It was like, 'Take the photo down. Period.' And he responded, 'It's down.' That was around suppertime on Saturday," said McCarron.
McCarron said she told her son it was a dumb move.
"I think it was done without considering consequences and I think it was a poor decision," she said.
Scissons agreed, but both mother and son said the complaint to the cyberbullying unit went too far.
"I can see why she was angry, but I think this is an over-escalation of the situation and I'd like to see it end," McCarron said.
"I assumed that it would have died at that point. I'm surprised that it has made it that police have become involved. That he was actually referred to this cyberbullying taskforce. I was surprised by that."
Scissons said he never meant to harass Zann.
"It was just meant to be funny and got out of hand I guess," he said. But "she was on that show voluntarily and she knew that image was out there and I don't think I said anything mean about her."
No criminal wrongdoing
After reading the obscenities, Zann also called the principal of the Cobequid Education Centre, where Scissons attends. Zann said she also contacted the communications director of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board to voice her concerns.
Scissons said he had an informal chat with his principal Bill Kaulbach where Kaulbach said the issue was outside of the school's authority, but advised him to stop tweeting at Zann.
Truro police said they've closed their investigation without finding any criminal wrongdoing.
Roger Merrick of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice said the province can't confirm or comment on any investigation by the CyberScan Investigation Unit.
He said any privacy breach could discourage bullying victims from coming forward with complaints.
It's not the first time the photograph of Zann has made headlines. In 2009, a member of the Liberal campaign team sent CBC News the photo of Zann on the same day New Democratic Party Leader Darrell Dexter announced Zann's candidacy in Truro.