Social Media Site Reddit Apologizes for ‘Online Witch Hunt’ of Boston Bomber Search


Reddit has officially apologized for users’ assumption that an innocent and missing Brown University student was a likely suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the few days between the Monday afternoon bombing of the Boston Marathon and Friday morning when it became clear that the Tsarnev brothers were being sought by authorities for the act of terror, users of the social media website Reddit attempted to ID the bombers through a crowd sourced search of video and photographs of the bombing site.

Unfortunately, according to Reddit General Manager Erik Martin, the effort became a “witch hunt” and proved to be just the sort of situation that the website had hoped to avoid.

“We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations,” Martin said in a blog post published on April 22.

As Reddit users began pouring over the videos and images of the bombing scene from just before the bombs went off, a consensus began to emerge that a possible suspect might be a Brown University student named Sunil Tripathi, a student who has been missing since March 16.

Of course, by Friday the authorities identified Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as suspects, not the missing Tripathi.

This speculation about the missing student soon went viral, something that Martin regrets. As the Reddit chief ruefully noted, “though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on Reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties.”

“The Reddit staff and the millions of people on Reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Tripathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil’s quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Tripathi family and their search.”

Martin reminded users that the website had enacted measures to prevent too much personal information from being released on the service to avoid the very sort of “witch hunts” that fingered the missing student last week. The system, however, failed in this instance.

“This crisis has reminded all of us of the fragility of people’s lives and the importance of our communities, online as well as offline,” Martin wrote.

Martin was pleased to point out, though, that many users initiated positive actions using the service. From “donating to relief funds, having pizzas delivered to area police and hospitals, to arranging for people with dogs to bring them to a park so people could escape a bit with some cute animal therapy, and even arranging housing and transportaion [sic] for out-of-towners who were stranded in Boston because of the bombing” Reddit’s users did much good during the heartrending attacks in Boston.

“We are all incredibly proud that the Reddit platform enabled this help,” Martin said.

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  • jim_m

    “Left wingers rush to judgement.”

    In other news the sun rose in the east and the sky is blue.

    • Brucehenry

      I’ve heard of Reddit — not quite sure exactly how it works or what makes it different from FB or Twitter — but are all its users “left wingers?”

      • Vagabond661

        Well “all” may be overboard. Imugur too. read some of the comments. It has the flavor of MSNBC and The HuffPo.

    • Sean Neil

      Oh yea, because those on the right nevvver rush to judgment huh lmao. Republican’s are notorious for conspiracy theorists, and also tend to be more judgmental toward people lifestyles

      • jim_m

        Yes, we make judgements. However only the left tries to outlaw other people’s ideas and ways of living.

        • Doel

          Yes, because homosexul’s aren’t people… nor were the blacks before that…

          (To be fair i agree with your original comment, but you clearly dont have a good sense of the political climate with your latest comment)

          • Why thank you for sharing…

          • jim_m

            Nobody is trying to outlaw homosexuality except for muslim extremists. Oddly enough, it is the left that sides with the islamic extremists and not the right. Perhaps it is you who lacks understanding of the political realities.

          • Doel

            Yeah, that small portion of muslim extremists are the ones heading the debate on homosexuality in the US. Hell, its the muslim extremist lobby that are keeping so many southern states from adopting gay marriage

            Also the ‘dont ask, dont tell’, was largely propagated by muslim extremists for decades.

            Also other honourble mentions:

            Bad economy: Muslim extremists and Obama

            Obesity: Fuck it, its the extremists and Obama

            Declining global power: When in doubt… Muslim Extremists… and Obama

            Left have their tag lines like this too(why i agreed on your first comment), but since you decided to tango, its you who I’m highlighting

          • jim_m

            Don’t ask don’t tell was a creation of the Clinton admin.

            The loudest voices condemning homosexuality in the US are the Westboro Baptist church. Fred Phelps is a life long Democrat.

            No conservatives are asking for homosexuality to be outlawed. You have not provided a single shred of evidence to support your claim.

            Conservatives do oppose gay marriage, but that is not making homosexuality illegal. You will also find a large number of conservatives (including myself) that support same sex civil unions.

            It seems that most of your ideas about conservatives come from the far left fever swamps. You should get out more.

          • BiggyDingus

            “Don’t ask don’t tell was a creation of the Clinton admin.”

            I love how you use a perfectly true statement to perpetrate a complete lie. Your implication was, of course, that evil liberals wanted gays out of the military, so Clinton implemented DADT because before him, gays could just openly serve. That is complete bull. Before DADT, homosexuality was a straight up violation of the uniform code that could result in your immediate dishonorable discharge. Most officers were too concerned about important things–like issues of discipline that actually affected our combat readiness–to launch massive gay-hunts, but before DADT, they could and did investigate any allegations that a serviceman was “kind of funny,” and the accused was compelled to comply with the investigation just like any other infraction.

            Don’t ask don’t tell wasn’t great. But it was still much better than the previous policy of “we might ask, and if we do, you’d better tell, and then you’re out of here.”

            Also, read the news. Look at every politician and every major group that is currently lobbying to roll back the repeal of DADT. Now, try to keep a straight face when you come back and call them “liberals.”

            Signed, a Marine that served years before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was implemented.

          • The “tiny” minority that have conducted 52 attacks resulting in 311 fatalities and 892 critical injuries in the last week?

            That tiny minority?

          • jim_m

            One need only look at the obama IRS to see what the left thinks of individual liberty and freedom of thought. Even traditional journalism is now considered a form of treason.

            Go ahead and try to outlaw people’s beliefs. That’s what you and your lefty friends are after. See how far it gets you.

          • BiggyDingus

            … were you in the womb during the Bush years?

            Dixie Chicks: During a concert, said they were “ashamed of President Bush.” Result: their mostly conservative audience abandoned them, they were trashed as “traitors” by Fox News etc.

            Ted Nugent: During a concert, said he was going to make Obama and Hilary “suck on his gun.” Result: his conservative audience members ate it up. His liberal audience members told the Daily Show, which then did a bit pointing out the hypocrisy of Fox News hiring Ted so often while condemning rappers for having “violent and sexist lyrics.”

          • Thank you for sharing.

          • BiggyDingus

            Umm, no.

            The left doesn’t “side with Muslim extremists.” The left favors Constitutionally protected due process rights and freedom from torture, as to be perfectly frank, any true conservative does as well. Many on the left also tend to be against some of Israel’s more aggressive actions. The fact that torture, incarceration without trial, drone strikes, and most of Israel’s military all happen to be pointed primarily at Muslims at this moment is incidental.

            Your entire strawman argument can be summed up like this: Anyone who actually thought that it was wrong for us to round up Japanese-American men, women, and children and stick them in concentration camps during WWII wanted Japan to win.

          • BiggyDingus

            To be fair, it was a Republican president who emancipated the slaves. A Republican who implemented a federal income tax and clearly didn’t think the world of states’ rights, but technically a Republican all the same.

          • It was a Democrat who instituted racist hiring criteria into the Federal Civil Service.

        • BiggyDingus

          There are a lot of the things I don’t like about the left, primarily fiscal issues. But the reason that I, and pretty much every other Libertarian I know, left the Republican fold in the first place is the right’s horrible record in recent years when it comes to “outlawing other people’s ideas and ways of living.” There are certainly troubling attacks on civil liberties from the left. The large soda ban in New York, gun control, and several attempts to ban the use of racial slurs in certain public forums spring to mind.

          But the majority has come from the right. President Bush effectively banned protesters–based solely on the content of their message–by putting them in “free speech zones” over a mile away from his routes and venues, but President Obama was decried as “censoring free speech” because his protective detail didn’t want people to open carry long guns at his events. The Tea Party, which I had once hoped would be a resurgent libertarian movement, is leading efforts to change history textbooks and ban certain idea from being taught. Ideas such as “the slave trade” (it’s “triangular trade” instead). Every anti-gay marriage law has been passed by largely conservative support, in mostly conservative states. The only place where it was actually overturned? The “left coast,” California. Of course, you can be pro-traditional marriage without being anti-gay rights, so lets look at anti-gay laws instead. You know, the ones that prevent gays from privately contracting benefits and rights into anything similar to marriage? All in red states. Lets look at the states that still have anti-sodomy laws on the book. Red states. Last states to repeal anti-miscegenation laws? You don’t have to look to far from my home state of Georgia.

  • Commander_Chico

    Of course we will ignore the fact that Michelle Malkin and her remora fish right-wing nutball sites like Pam Geller’s were leading the charge on naming poor Sunil and some other unfortunate guy named Mike as the bombers.

    Which of course Malkin has wiped from her main page and not apologized for.

    • Jwb10001

      Coming from the guy that wants the West Tx. fertilizer plant own in jail with knowing any of the facts.

      • Brucehenry

        I don’t think that was Chico, was it?

        • Commander_Chico

          I shut this one down pretty quick – one weak attack from another story.

  • You have heard – TOO LITTLE TOO LATE, they need to get their [email protected]!#$ together before ACUSING anyone of anything. POS just like the Regime, MSNBC and HuffyPuffyPOST. . GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    • BiggyDingus

      The difference between Reddit and say, or anything Bill O’Reilly is you hear about their mistakes. Sometimes they apologize for it, other times they stubbornly insist they were right and would do the same thing again, but what doesn’t change is that they don’t eradicate any record of their mistakes.

      I really hate hypocrites on both sides of the aisle, and I love venting whenever someone royally screws the pooch. But I have noticed two things over the years 1) mistakes tend to come in equal measure from both the right and the left 2) the majority of broken links (blogger posted something racist, click here to see the original post… 404 wha…?) happen when it’s one of the big conservative blogs that made the mistake.

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