The trial of a Dutch man accused of extorting and harassing B.C. teen Amanda Todd before she took her own life in 2012 resumed Wednesday with testimony from a digital forensic specialist.
Vancouver police Detective Constable Robin Shook walked the court through a labyrinth of websites, some used to host disturbing images of children.
While most people are familiar with major platforms such as YouTube, Skype and Gmail, Shook described a variety of lesser-known websites used to chat, stream, and in some cases upload pornography, which have hundreds of millions of users.
Shook, who has been a digital forensic specialist since 2016, and worked with the counter-exploitation unit prior to that, went into detail about websites including TinyChat, Omegle, blogTV, Dialogoo, ICanHazChat and more.
He also testified about a pornography site called “Motherless,” which features more than 13 million pictures and videos.
The common theme in his testimony was the ease with which users can upload graphic content to such sites, with no requirement for a real name or verification checks.
During the previous two days of testimony, Amanda Todd’s parents testified about receiving Facebook messages from an unknown person which contained links to an explicit video of their daughter on the “Motherless” website.
Aydin Coban is facing trial on five criminal charges, including extortion, possession of child pornography, child luring and criminal harassment. The 43-year-old, who was extradited to Canada in 2020, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The Crown alleges Coban used a network of 22 fake social media accounts to torment the teen between 2009 and 2012, and try and blackmail her into performing pornographic webcam shows. The Crown also alleges that in some cases Coban sent links to explicit video of the teen to friends, family and her school community.
The case hinges on identity, and the Crown has told the 12-person jury that it can prove all 22 accounts were operated by Coban.
Defence says there is no link between Coban and and the online extortionist, and that Amanda likely shared her social media passwords with others.
Speaking outside the court, Amanda’s mother Carol Todd said Wednesday’s testimony was a powerful reminder for parents about why they should be involved in their children’s digital lives.
Todd said the social media platforms are active at any given time constantly change, but the types and functions of those sites, be they chating, streaming, video hosting, gaming or otherwise, tend to remain fairly constant.
She said parents should familiarize themselves with the landscape, so that learning the specifics about any given website is easy.
“With every year those sites continue to appear in different names. It’s not about chasing an application by name, it’s about finding out what a general application does,” Todd said.
“Every year we have different ones, you have to learn about what communication tools there are out there, what chatting availability is out there, and that’s what you learn about. Because then if new ones pop up, you know what they do.”
She said organizations like MediaSmarts and Common Sense Media provide easy to use tools for parents who are looking to better understand the online landscape their children may be operating in.
The trial is set to resume Thursday, with testimony from the first witness form the Netherlands, who will testify by video.
The Crown has previously said it will call several Dutch witnesses, including police who searched the holiday bungalow where Coban lived when he was arrested in 2014, and technology experts who examined computers and hard drives seized at the time.
— With files from Rumina Daya