April 19, 2013
If you thought the New York Post's "Bag Men" outing was bad, the most crowdsourced terror investigation in American history transformed from Internet sleuthing of FBI photos on Thursday night into a lynch mob — from Reddit to a police scanner to social media and beyond — that led to the outing of even more innocent people as would-be suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Indeed, the chaotic overnight scene in Watertown, Massachusetts — before one actual suspect was killed and before the ongoing manhunt for the other shut down Boston — was just the latest in a series of false reports naming suspects in a terror investigation, with their foundations in Internet sleuthing. The r/findbostonbombers subreddit was a flurry activity on Thursday night, tracking down a photo not released by the FBI that appeared to be a clearer picture of the man now known as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. But there was an irresponsible chase in the works, too, trying to put a name to the face of the man in the white hat, until this morning only known by his FBI description, Suspect 2: "I think i found suspect 2..." asked one Reddit thread; "Is missing student Sunil Tripathi Marathon Bomber #2?" asked another. The amateur investigators from the site — having served as a kind of unofficial proving ground for theories that made their way to the mainstream media, jumping on the clear photo, despite the Post story that had also spread on Reddit — were tying the FBI photos to a 22-year-old Brown student and this ABC News report about his having gone missing last month. There was pushback, even on Reddit — "Leave the missing guy alone" — but it was too late; the trolls on Reddit had fed an army of all-nighter trolls in the media.
Read more at Atlantic Wire.
April 19, 2013