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Redditors Use Crowdsourcing Techniques to Essentially Libel after Boston Bombing

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Redditors Use Crowdsourcing Techniques to Essentially Libel after Boston Bombing

2013-04-19 13:41:23

-by Alex Mangini, Staff Writer; Image: The “Find Boston Bombers” Subreddit Page (Image Source: Screenshot)

What has been called “the most crowd-sourced terror investigation in American history” has yielded some devastatingly inaccurate results, as rampant speculation amounted to an essential witch hunt as users of Reddit and other multimedia sites attempted to identify those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombers.

“There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs, videos, and other observations that were made down at that finish line,” said Timothy Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police at a press conference, urging people with information to volunteer it. “You might not think it’s significant, but it might have some value to this investigation.”

This request, however, has resulted in conspiracy theories and inaccurate assumptions of guilt.

Reddit users published numerous pictures of innocent people with backpacks, innocent dark-skinned bystanders, and others that have nothing to do with the terrorist attack.

The “Find Boston Bombers” forum on Reddit had over 1,700 users and more than 60 photographs.

Two Moroccan-American teenagers were even picked up by the New York Post, and published on the front cover with the title “BAG MEN,” though the men have since been cleared of any involvement.

One of the teenagers expressed his fear of leaving his home since appearing on the cover of the newspaper.

The two suspects have been identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, and his brother Tamerlan, 26. Tamerlan was killed last night in a firefight with police, while Dzhokhar remains at large and in the center of an unprecedented manhunt.

“We do not condone vigilante justice,” one Reddit user, “Rather_Confused,” said.

“Our aim is simply to provide tips for the FBI, not to take matters into our own hands,” the user posted. “While it’s admirable to help, posting information on anyone noted in pictures could have a devastating effect on their life.”

“Unless there is an unthinkably large conspiracy behind the Boston bombings, it’s pretty much impossible for every suspect identified by the mob to be guilty,” said Andrew Leonard of Salon. “Which means, sadly, that a bunch of amateurs playing with photographs on their computer are tarring innocent people with potential responsibility for a horrible crime. There’s no way that could go horribly wrong, is there? Our worst selves get revealed at these moments.”

The forum in question, or “subreddit,” can be found at reddit.com/r/findbostonbombers.

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