If you haven’t heard anything about the suicide of Amanda Todd yet, you may want to skim the Wikipedia article. It’s not necessary, as the piece I’m linking gives a short overview, but the piece isn’t strictly about her and so leaves out a lot of the details.
So, on to the piece. Michelle Dean wrote this fantastic post for The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog that ties the awful death of Amanda Todd together with recent developments on reddit and the internet’s attitude toward anonymity and free speech. It’s hard to quote my favorite part of the Todd’s piece, as it depends on several of the themes she develops, but the sentence is so powerful that I’m going to try it anyway:
What you could call the Brutschean world view—which takes anonymity as the only meaningful form of privacy, and a key element of free speech—is nearly an article of faith in these lower levels of the Internet. …
But, as the scholar Mary Anne Franks has observed, women haven’t actually achieved this “bodiless” freedom online. They are embodied in distributed pictures and in sexual comments, whether they like it or not. The power to get away from yourself, like everything else, is unevenly distributed. Women have become, as Franks put it, “unwilling avatars,” unable to control their own images online, and then told to put up with it for the sake of “freedom,” for the good of the community.
Emphasis added by myself. It’s really harrowing when it’s put like that, and yet it’s also totally undeniable.