Anonymous & the Rehtaeh Parsons Case: Online avengers or an online lynch mob?

Some computer hackers believe they forced police to reopen an investigation into a case of bullying that may have driven Nova Scotian Rehtaeh Parsons to take her own life. (CP/HO-Facebook)


Their real voices were never heard, real names were never known, but when a group of online activists inserted themselves into the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the police were suddenly re-investigating and filing charges. But who is Anonymous? An organization with no identified hierarchy and no accountability.

In the American wild west, people who took justice into their own hands sometimes called themselves vigilantes .... In the wilds of cyberspace, people demanding justice sometimes call themselves hacktivists.

Last April, the death of Rehtaeh Parsons captured the world's attention. The 17-year-old girl from Dartmouth was taken off life support after she tried to take her own life ... an act her parents blame on years of online bullying.

Rehtaeh's mother says her daughter was sexually assaulted by four boys. She says they took photos of the attack and circulated them on the internet.

At first, police investigated but laid no charges. Then, activists claiming affiliation with the online group Anonymous said that if the police wouldn't act in Rehtaeh's case, they would.


Anonymous activists frequently cast themselves as online avengers. But others say they're more like vigilantes.

Are antibullying activists the saviors of the Internet -- or just a different kind of curse? — By Emily Blazon/The New York Times

Emily Bazelon has spent months getting to know the members of the particular Anonymous group who took up Rehtaeh Parson's cause. She is a senior writer with Slate magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones, a book about bullying. Emily Bazelon is now the Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School. She wa in New Haven, Connecticut.

What you think about this kind of online activism?

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This segment was produced by Halifax Network Producer Wendy Martin and The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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