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The girl whose name we all know but can't say

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Photo: Sarah Reid/flickr

I can't tell you her name. You know it already.

She's the teenaged girl who committed suicide after an alleged sexual assault at a house party was photographed and posted online, triggering months of cyber-bullying but no criminal charges against those allegedly responsible.

She is the girl whose bereaved parents went public with her story shortly after her death.

She is the girl whose story galvanized the broader worldwide online community into demanding justice -- sometimes vigilante justice -- forcing police to re-open a closed investigation and ultimately lay child pornography charges against two boys, whose upcoming trial is now the reason I can't mention her name.

She is the girl whose death prompted politicians to hastily enact more appropriate new laws on cyber-bullying and dissemination of intimate images, one of which is often referred as The-Name-I-Cannot-Now-Write's law.

She is the girl whose name may soon be transformed into a Marvel comic character to teach young people about the dangers of bullying.

She is the girl whose name was invoked three weeks ago when more than 150 people marched through Cole Harbour to remember her death.

When I type her name into Google Search, I get 282,000 hits in less than a quarter of a second.

And yet, under Section 486 of the Criminal Code, I can no longer identify her because she is an alleged victim in a child pornography case, and publication bans in such cases are automatic.

Media lawyers, with the support of her parents, will be in court this week seeking to overturn the ban.

There is a common-sense logic to lifting the ban in this particular case. And there will undoubtedly be other cases in our Facebook-sharing, Twitter-hash-tag-linking, social-media-connecting world where publication bans fly in the face of what everyone already knows anyway.

That said, those cases should be the exception rather than the rule. The legitimate purpose of the law is to protect the privacy of innocent children victimized by child pornography.

If the world had unfolded differently, if the police had laid charges after investigating the girl's initial complaint, our conversation would probably be very different today.

It's sad we can no longer have that conversation. It's sad we all already know her name. 

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Sarah Reid/flickr

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