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What happens when you give 4chan images of the Boston Marathon? (basedheisenberg.tumblr.com)
546 points by caffeinewriter on Apr 17, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 285 comments



It would be great if this helped but I sure hope "the internet" doesn't decide it's someone who turns out to be the wrong person, because the vigilantes will not stop even if the discovery is "corrected".

The media did that with the Atlanta bombing and it destroyed a guy's life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Jewell


Anonymous also digitally lynched a guy assumed to have thrown a puppy off a bridge. Turned out they had the wrong guy.

Vigilante justice is reckless and comes with big risks, as romantic as it may sound to some to sit in the comfort of your desk chair and bring about digital justice.


Anonymous called in a bomb threat on my girlfriends office because they don't know how internet hosting works. Really sucks how much being misinformed and out for vigilante justice seem to overlap nowadays.


Is there much difference between bad vigilante justice and bad institutional justice? How about the good variety? We know the criminal justice gets things wrong all the time.

I guess we'd like to say accountability, but even that's not really there. Take Louis Cuen Taylor, who just spent over 40 years in prison for setting fire to a hotel, despite actually helping the police attempt to save people. After all this time, it was finally accepted that there was no evidence whatsoever that Taylor actually committed the crime. He was released after pleading No Contest, making it very difficult for him to get any sort of reparations. So yes, he was finally released, but with 4 decades of his life taken from him.


The difference is recklessness, a word previous user used.

Bad things happen even with reasonable safeguards in place - cars will keep crashing even if everyone is alert and sober, yet there is still a world of difference between a drunk swerving between lanes and a sober/attentive driver.

The fact that the criminal justice system, based around impartial trials, the right to defend yourself before your charges, and the assumption of innocence, will at times ensnare innocents is not an excuse to adopt the opposite system - i.e., the assumption of guilt, mob justice, and the lack of opportunity to defend oneself.

Put more practically, the difference between bad vigilante justice and bad institutional justice is its occurrence rate. Vigilante justice frequently ensnares innocents - the other posts in this thread demonstrate this in spades, and makes wrongful convictions in the US criminal justice system look like a drop in the bucket.


> Vigilante justice frequently ensnares innocents - the other posts in this thread demonstrate this in spades, and makes wrongful convictions in the US criminal justice system look like a drop in the bucket.

Any country that has an incarceration rate 5-10x higher than most other countries ("civilized" or not), I'd be real hesitant to call their wrongful convictions a "drop in a bucket".

I'd be in agreement with that argument if it were any other country. Still, vigilante justice is (of course) not a solution for the US because if that became commonplace, it'd be even worse. Less incarcerations, but you may not like what they'd get replaced with.


> "I'd be real hesitant to call their wrongful convictions a "drop in a bucket"."

That's not what I said. What I said is that miscarriages of justice in a vigilante environment would make the current US situation look like a drop in the bucket. The level of injustice that would exist in society would make people yearn for the days when we were imprisoning >1% of the country's population.


> as romantic as it may sound to some to sit in the comfort of your desk chair and bring about digital justice.

Isn't this romantic notion, bringing justice with a click the driving force of nearly every online-petition, and things like this.

Isn't this romantic notion the reason why the new demo is so often practiced? New demo = to ddos someone to mars or jupiter, and rationalize it with: I could just as easily have gone to their headquarter and demoed there?

Well most people could not have done it - and would not have done it in rain, snow, wind, driven 500 miles just to demo there, and so on.

As a lot of psychological studies showed, people saying they would do something and people doing this thing in the real world (not in their imagination) are two totally different things.

So there you have your real, underlying problem, a psychological problem, with this kind of digital activism. It is so totally different from real activism, and at the same time so new, that we really do not have proper ways as a society to deal with the dark sides of it.


One or a few people defacing or denying a target's digital presence gets everyone's attention. One or a few people picketing outside of the target's physical presence doesn't get any attention.

The ability for one person to have that much power is either scary or empowering depending on your point of view.


You mean "both". And/or, it's definitely not an either/or thing.


I should have qualified it with "of the actions taken, and the targets background", but yeah I guess I could have said "both". I didn't like how cliche "both scary and empowering at the same time" sounded.

Additionally, it seems some people have a hard time realizing they have polarized views of the same thing in their head. So while it may be both scary and empowering, people can have strong polarized views of the same topic without realizing it, it just depends on their point of view at the time. Maybe I was trying to get people to think and realize that such things exist in their mind, or maybe I am giving myself too much credit for an omission of words.


What does digitally lynched mean?


Or more recently Steven Hatfill from the 2001 anthrax attacks.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Hatfill

Or even more recently Ryan Lanza at Sandy Hook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Lanza#Investigation

The media doesn't learn and doesn't care to learn.


UK: Colin Stagg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Rachel_Nickell

Christopher Jeffries http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/16/christopher-jeffrie...

Oz: Lindy Chamberlain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_Chamberlain-Creighton

Countless others, and one of the reasons why death-penalties can kill the wrong person



I think there is a big difference between the news saying "THIS IS THE GUY! THIS IS THE MONSTER!" and people on a forum speculating that "this may be worth looking into further".

The people who turn it into a witch hunt are likely not the people actually using their heads enough to know what to be looking for in the images.


I think there is a big difference between the news saying "THIS IS THE GUY! THIS IS THE MONSTER!" and people on a forum speculating that "this may be worth looking into further".

The problem is that all it takes is one group to start quoting the other, and the effect starts to snowball:

"Internet detectives on the popular website Reddit have identified three possible suspects..."

"[Rival news organization] tonight reported on three new leads. The suspects, Joe Bloggs, Susan Smith and Bill Stickers..."

"Ask Reddit - who of the three suspects do you think is most likely to be behind the attacks?"


Bill Stickers is innocent.


It's usually the second one from the left.


So in LTR languages, the second one?


Bill Stickers Will Be Prosecuted.



Kudos for the link.


When something like this gets popular, its a matter of time before a major newspaper will publish this on the front page. And that's the beginning of the end for this person, in case he is innocent (which he is, until proven otherwise).


Just wait until the media finds this


They already have.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/mystery-man-on-roof...

Edit: It's another picture though.


Most of these didn't end with lives ruined. With Ryan Lanza, the media corrected the suspect name very quickly. Hatfill got a multimillion dollar settlement from the government, and Jewell ended up on SNL. In all cases the media did learn they were wrong and publicly admit. Certainly they jumped the gun and caused injury, but they did learn and do the right thing eventually.


I'm curious how "ended up on SNL" is a reward.


He got to punch someone dressed up as Janet Reno on national TV!


I'm sure he was not forced to be on SNL, but was offered the opportunity and accepted it. Some people would like to be on TV.


The media learned as in "became informed" but did not learn in the sense that they "improved".


I don't think that's fair to say either. "The media" reports hundreds of names in various capacities every day. Of course they blunder occasionally. You just don't hear about the 99.999% of the time they don't.

I don't think they needed to learn anything. They know it's bad to jump the gun. You still see "Dewey Defeats Truman" jokes.

They just make mistakes. It's easy to criticize a nameless faceless concept like "the media". Individuals in the media are largely upstanding people trying to do the right thing.


Really? looks like Richard Jewell died a pretty horrible death...


You can't blame "the media" for a man's kidney problems.


Having your life destroyed and the depression must have added to it.


natural causes?


I think it's worse than that, as there are incentives (ratings, readership, etc) for them to jump to conclusions like that.


The very fact this post has made it to the top of HN/Reddit/4Chan, is incentive enough for similar communities to start searching for needles in those haystacks of photos. I guess we can expect more such "observations" from the crowd :-|


It wasn't the media that decided that Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill were "persons of interest," it was the FBI.

With recent news about someone "watching a race while brown" (an injured Saudi's home is searched while he's being treated for injuries) I don't hold a lot of hope for accurate and careful policing.


The FBI very much leaked those names though. It wasn't an accident.


Of course this is helping. They aren't convicting anyone, they are tracking down leads. I'm sure the police would be engaging in this exact same exercise if they had the manpower. Luckily, there are hundreds or thousands of motivated volunteers who are willing to sift through this data and hopefully something really good is in there.


They are publicly "accusing" (or putting somebody in a very specific corner) two guys. They do not have any, any idea, what has really happened.

They are nothing more than unethical algorithmic drones, that dig up stuff. So far, no problem. But when showing their findings in public, they have a responsibility in thinking through the possible consequences, that might arise for these two guys if the (with a by the way very high probability) are innocent.

So raising the internet-pillories with possible media outlets taking these images and (not fact checking) showing them in different channels, might just destroy lives.

So yeah, sit in your chair and believe this unethical bs about them not convicting anybody. Right, the internet is just a tool.

As wise Uncle Ben once said: "With great power comes great responsibility."

That is, what seems to be missing here.

ps.: Imagine a different scenario:

They dig up these images, they send it to the law enforcement agencies. They find these guys to be potential suspects. They get a fair trial. After all is said and done . These guys come out to show what they did. Something in the line of finding a security flaw at your favorite digital place.


They are publicly "accusing" (or putting somebody in a very specific corner) two guys.

FYI: This submission is just some images pulled off a thread of idle speculation that somebody posted to Tumblr. It's not some kind of organized campaign claiming to have found the people responsible.


If someone thinks they have good evidence of the bomber, they should:

1. assemble the pictures

2. give sources for their pictures (an imgur link doesn't count)

3. show what evidence they think that makes the person a suspect

4. submit it to the FBI

5. not post it on the Internet

Posting it on the Internet doesn't help. The FBI will need to track down original photos, and being duplicated everywhere on the web, with a bunch of other people photoshopping comments on it in various ways, won't help their efforts.

The FBI only needs to see it once. This isn't voting. A bunch of people submitting something doesn't make it more likely to be true, or more likely to be listened to.

On another note, it's funny how people tend to focus on people who stand out, like the guy with the white baseball cap. He stands out in a sea of dark colors, so of course people focus on him. It's very hard to believe (although possible) that the actual bomber would wear clothing that makes him stand out in any way.


Yes, but now is on the front page of Hacker News. They may just have ruined this guy's life, even if they didn't mean it. And based on what? The pictures prove nothing. In fact, they're not even suspicious! "Backpack seems to be missing"? The picture only shows his head!

This is bad, and very wrong.


Oh, please. It's on the front page of Hacker News because Hacker News is full of credulous idiots, not because talking about pictures is bad or wrong.


Almost every top level comment is people being skeptical and urging caution. What were you saying about credulous idiots?


Said comments are completely non-skeptical about the provenance of the images or their actual significance. Because Hacker News never gets anything wrong, right? We're smart here, right?

No, actually. We average out to the same kind of mob-prone mooks we like to tut-tut at others for being. Except our mobs are about standing around going "Well, actually..." and that's marginally less puerile than what we see from 4chan mobs.

It might feel like skepticism, but from where I sit it looks a lot like pretentious pseudo-intellectual grandstanding. It's like hanging a somebody's napkin doodle in an art gallery just so you can complain that it's not the Mona Lisa.


Well, someone's upvoting, and I'm guessing it isn't the cautious skeptics.


Upvoting doesn't necessarily mean that you think that these are the guys responsible. It just means you think this is interesting. And it is.


What super power does law enforcement possess that us lesser humans don't?


They have the super power of working within a judicial framework which forces them to be prove the suspects' guilt thoroughly before any kind of punishment can be dealt. This is not the case with vigilantes.


Doesn't America have the perp walk of shame (considered unlawful in some other developed countries)?

Isn't that almost the same thing as this, just with a higher probability that the shamed person is actually guilty of the crime?


No, while obviously uncivilized and outside of civilized rules of justice, it is not the same. At the minimum, there are some named people responsible for this who you can sue or at least make a dent in their reputation if they abuse their power (see Ortiz case.) The internet crowd bears zero responsibility.


Very good story about perp walks, and how they can be staged:

http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/09/misconduct-is-only-news-wh...


> They have the super power of working within a judicial framework which forces them to be prove the suspects' guilt thoroughly before any kind of punishment can be dealt.

The Presumption of Innocence is actually not directly enshrined in the US constitution, and has been relaxed or reversed by the government to serve "societal needs."

http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1be5xv/til_in...

Also recall this from a few years back:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/02/02/691881/-Holder-Habe...


They have the super power of working within a judicial framework which forces them to be prove the suspects' guilt thoroughly before any kind of punishment can be dealt.

Yeah, how about those drug offenses? Or copyright issues? Or computer fraud and abuse? Or...


Or... a witch hunt. That is what public justice is. That's why we have police.

They also have the super power of getting a search warrant and going through your fucking house so that they can find real evidence not just some pictures or possibly innocent people on the internet.

I don't know why I'm so pissed about these photo's but it most have something to do with the hypocrisy of HN being a group of people who hate to be watched and yet... WE are watching YOU. Seriously how are these photos any different than the government having drones? They are public? The public doesn't need to do everything and the government shouldn't be 100% open. I think this demonstrates just how bad it would be if private citizens were given the launch codes to nuclear weapons.


Give me a break dude, there's a huge difference between taking photos at a huge public event and government drones. I can't believe this even has to be addressed.

You are at a public event, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy and could not argue so in court.

If you are in your backyard and your neighbor is videotaping you, then that's illegal if you have the expectation of privacy. The government can basically do the same with impunity with drones without it being illegal.

See the difference?


OK see you are arguing to a specific point on the drones issue. I.E. them being used in your back yard. I'm referring to the idea that the government (using your logic) could film and track you whenever you go out in public, period.

But that's not the point I'm trying to make, Someone took a photo (publicly available) and found someone without a backpack, then the put it up online and said, this guy is a suspect.

Now we have a crowd of people (here on Hacker news and if you follow the threads others on Reddit) who have seen this guys face. The law of idiots leads me to believe that someone is going to recognize him and this could adversely affect his life.

Is it illegal... no. Is it morally wrong to post something like this online, I believe so. Sure, he has no right to privacy, and I'm no lawyer, but to slander someone's name with a very limited amount of evidence seems fucked up. I said it in another area, but they should have privately released this information to the police and let them investigate.


So, reading your post, I just wondered something, I realize it may sound stupid. Most people don't have a backyard. As soon as they get away from under their roof, they are in a public space. Does this not affect them?


I used backyard as the sort of example that is always made in law school. Backyards are actually not entirely private. Say you have an illegal pool, if the cops see it from the air, you're still subject to prosecution. Or if you shared a backyard with a neighbor and were running around naked when they have free access to the backyard, it's still exposure.

What is true is that if you have a 12 foot fence and are in your backyard topless and your neighbor films you, then that's illegal because you had an expectation of privacy. Same goes if someone is being taped in a bathroom. You are in space that's not publicly accessible. I'm not 100% sure where the definitive case law on what is and is not private resides, but most of it is well defined in the physical world. So consider these three things: barriers (walls, space is not public), ownership (I own or are here with consent of who owns), and consent (I agreed to wave privacy rights explicity or de facto i.e. I'm walking down this street). These three things have to be ALL met or else you could tape people taking showers at your house legally.

With your apartment, things are even more gray because you don't have an absolute right to privacy there as your landlord can enter the premises under many pretenses.


Don't be silly, nobody's saying it's perfect. But it's certainly better than universal vigilante justice.

Would you prefer it if copyright holders were free to exact their own "justice" outside of the court system?


> What super power does law enforcement possess that us lesser humans don't?

You're playing the foll, right? If not, then I'll tell you why.

Instead of going to your neighbours house and beat him with a baseball bat when you suspect his kids did pee in your rosebuds, you should report to the police and ask for a reparation.

Why? Because we live in a society, not in a hurd. The guy with the most muscles is not supposed to be more right than the guy with less, or in a wheelchair.

The way to do this is to agree together to not use force and let an institution use force, thusly forming a "social contrat", which you have already signed at your birth.

And what if you don;t agree with this contract? You woould need to go in another place, but all of them places have such contracts, you'll be sorry to hear.


Warrants, training, 40+ hours a week doing exactly this, rules to operate under (which of course are broken but that isn't the point of a rule now is it), the actual evidence from the explosion, bomb analysis tools, the ability to pull peoples records...

What do we have? A shit ton of people and photos of people with backpacks. This is great if you give it privately to the police so they can go out and use the rest of their tools to find stuff, but there is a reason why they don't announce their "suspects" to the public.


Training, experience, the requirement to follow procedures that safeguard the innocent.


>Some procedures also end up safeguarding the not-so-innocent.

That's just as well. It's better to let a not-so-innocent walk, than to make an innocent pay.


That doesn't mean we should settle for that. I don't see why we can't have our cake and eat it too. You need a mix of strict procedures, but also lawless vigilantes. Only having strict procedures leads corruption/loopholes which leads to lots of criminals getting away needlessly. The strict procedures keep the vigilantes in check, and the vigilantes keep the people who foil the system in check.


>You need a mix of strict procedures, but also lawless vigilantes.

The very notion of justice in civilized western societies is that you DON'T need "lawless vigilantes".

And they ain't that good either. All their allure comes from BS movies, TV shows and comic books.

In real life "lawless vigilantes" are more like Southern lynching mobs.


Some procedures also end up safeguarding the not-so-innocent.


> What super power does law enforcement possess that us lesser humans don't?

You're completely right. Everything was much better when the mob could just perform justice with a rope and a tree.


The superpower of not making the images of suspects they spot public until further investigation and judicial approval.


Legal liability. Everything else flows from that. They can't be careless and ruin lives; they're on the hook for what they do.

But a bunch of people on a forum? Will they even feel responsible for their individual small part of participation in a thread that ruins someone's life? It's very similar, psychologically, to a mob. And that's why it's so dangerous.


But your assessment of legal liability is completely wrong.

Law enforcement has absolutely zero legal liability for anything they do in the course of their job. Anything. This is well-settled law.

On the other hand the forum mob is legally liable for their actions.

So if your sole criterion was legal liability, we should expect greater care, consideration and accuracy from the forum mob than from law enforcement members.


> Law enforcement has absolutely zero legal liability for anything they do in the course of their job. Anything. This is well-settled law.

That's not actually true, random internet anecdotes aside.http://www.columbia.edu/itc/journalism/cases/katrina/Human%2...


The city may choose to settle civil claims against it. The officer is not at risk. Which is a point made extensively in your link, actually.


It certainly isn't perfect, but the liability is there. Particularly the organizational liability. People's careers get ruined when they screw up. They certainly don't get promoted for leaving cities on the hook for massive payouts. (Hatfill won 4.6M from the justice department. Koon and Powell did time in federal prison.)

Whose livelihood is threatened by participating in a 4chan thread pseudonymously?


The ability to effect justice through a legal system?


"They are nothing more than unethical algorithmic drones, that dig up stuff."

I fail to see how this is more applicable to the average 4chan viewer than it is to the average human being.


Indeed. It's almost like it would be a good idea to have people dedicated to performing this function. Make it their job. Give them training. Give them oversight.


The problem is that if those "leads" are made public and point at specific people, then some people will let their outrage over what happened blot out all doubt that the "leads" are not conclusive evidence and take what they believe to be justice into their own hands.


As a counter example look at the arab guy. You can read about him in wikipedia and somewhat online (its intentionally not being discussed much by the media). Immediately after the blast a bunch of people tackled an arab dude for the crime of "running while Arab" and turned him over to the cops who tossed his apartment upside down. The latest I've heard was an official police spokesman said the arab dude had nothing to do with the event other than being another victim.

I would say this is an absolutely worst case heat of the moment outcome. Can't claim its unrelated or irrelevant. Its a sad outcome that lots of americans automatically equate being arab with being a criminal, and its sad he got tackled after nearly being blown up, and its sad the cops trashed his house, but in the long line of human injustice, its not that bad, no one shot him or lynched him or ruined his reputation.

In a somewhat slower paced, more methodical, less emotional situation like looking at pictures of backpacks online, I think the likely outcome compared to the poor arab dude would be immensely more likely to tend toward rational wise justice than uncontrolled rabid injustice.


Sure, the outcome is more likely to be rational for each single person, but when it's published on the internet, there are suddenly potentially millions of people involved, some of which are certain to be not rational and wise at all...


I confess to being strangely comforted that no one in Arizona has shot a Sikh yet.


I'm sure the police would be engaging in this exact same exercise if they had the manpower.

If there is something the US intelligence services are lacking when it comes to terrorism than it is certainly not the lack of manpower and money...


Well, you seem to be making some rather positive assumptions, completely out of context.

I saw this when it was new, yesterday, and it is one pic in a in a giant series of photoshops showing Dorner is responsible, and a zillion of the other usual 4chan and reddit suspects.

So I glanced at this (or one of the numerous others very similar) and at a glance said Oh LOL very funny to photoshop Moot into the pix but Moot is going to be pissed now. At closer glance today, Moot is in fact a skinny white dude but this seems to be a different one (insert racially insensitive comment about skinny white guys all looking the same to me at long distance and low res, hey recognizing the problem is more than half way to fixing it). And its all rather tasteless humor so I scrolled past it pretty quick for better stuff (aka pretty much ANYTHING other than jokes about blown up people) I'm surprised this is still "of interest" today.

The properly journalistic way to look at this is in context, you REALLY need to look for instance at the reddit posts on the same topic immediately before and after which show the probably late mr dorner being responsible in one via some pretty amusing CSI style animated gif photoshop work, and another photoshop job doing the same with spiderman (no kidding). And some dumb anime ones, and the usual racial slurs, etc. However in a giant sea of photoshops, this one story is gaining traction. Probably because its politically correct to assume an angry white dude did it, whereas the similar photoshops of arabs in turbans are too politically incorrect (aside from also being completely ridiculous and tasteless).

Now the question of the day is who is this dude who probably got photoshopped in, and I'm not a huge Stargate fan by any means (err, well...) but I am about 95% sure this was a generic uniformed dude from SG:U or SG:Atlantis. Now it could all be real in which case SG:U or SG:Atlantis uniforms are going to be solely for the tasteless next Halloween, or its just vaguely coincidental that the the SG uniform people used some pretty much off the shelf stuff from Gander Mountain or uscav and it means pretty much nothing.

I wrote a bunch of stuff about which episode of SG:U I think this uniform and backpack comes from, but the pix is so low res and I'm working from memory, so I deleted it.

I don't know whats more embarrassing, a bunch of people getting all worked up believing one pix on a site known for "funny" photoshops is authentic, or me admitting in public that I watch syfy network sometimes, even worse I got roped into watching SG:U and I'm still kinda pissed they never had any closure to the series.

I guess if there is any "startup lesson" here for the HN community its that you can't usefully research something in total isolation of its surroundings.

That doesn't mean its absolutely false, just probably. For gods sakes whoever is doing this research for real, do us all a favor and DO NOT publish it in the funny photoshops section if you want it taken seriously, OK? Frankly anywhere else would be better.

This doesn't mean its all a waste of time. If the pix are not photoshopped, and if for example the SG:U costume department bought its backpacks and shirts and caps from Cabellas Outfitters or REI or whatever, and the dude in the pix shopped fairly recently at the same place, extensive research into that topic MIGHT help the authorities.


In case you didn't know, some dude wrote a pretty convincing Season 3 for SG:U. I recommend it to anyone that wants some closure.

Unofficial Stargate Universe, Season 3 (scripts) http://laurencemoroney.azurewebsites.net/?page_id=2


Damn them all for canceling SGU. Still bitter about that.


Everything has to cancel or end eventually. Its a tough choice as I thought the BSG finale was awful. So just chop the series off in the middle, or risk an awful finale, which is worse?

The writers ran out of ideas in SG:U and it never should have been a series. Would have been a great movie or short mini-series.

There's probably a startup lesson about ambition in the SG_U story, something about designing a great six hour product results in disaster if "success" descends on you and you've suddenly gotta fill dozens of hours, any way possible. If they did a SG:U miniseries we'd probably still be ranting about how it was the best miniseries in years, etc.


Yeah this seems like it could turn into a witch hunt very quickly. The right way to get this information out there would be to privately send it to the police.


The authorities could prevent this if they had been more forthcomming with information.

Not telling anything for days isn't acceptable anymore -- the government used to get away with these kinds of things because it used to control the narrative, but it can't do that anymore.


>The media did that with the Atlanta bombing and it destroyed a guy's life.

The media? No the FBI did that. "The media" ought to have known better, and still hasn't learned better.


Holy cow. If you said to me "How is Richard Jewell related to the Atlanta Olympics?". I would not have guessed the correct answer: "rescued hundreds of people from a bomb."

I would have guessed the libel, which I will not repeat here.

Memory sucks.


There have been a few of these cases, but they all (iirc) have been started by traditional media rather than the internet mob.

In fact the mob in this case seems to be showing a lot of common sense with top voted comments like the parent here urging caution.


We shouldn't jump to conclusions here. Are we forgetting the wrongful identification and accusations surrounding Ryan Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting? It was his brother Adam who was the shooter but it didn't stop the media from incorrectly reporting that it was Ryan and his picture was publicised all over the news, websites, blogs, Twitter and every possible media outlet you can think of.

While it's possible the person in the image could be the culprit, lets not jump to conclusions until we have some more solid evidence. Some people take off their backpack in crowds because it can get in the way, how do we know this isn't the case here? There are a thousand legitimate justifications for not having a backpack on you were seen carrying earlier.

I usually walk to the train station to commute to work in the mornings and take my backpack off once I get on so it doesn't get in the way of others. Now I know what people will be saying if the train gets blown up and they have imagery of me with a backpack on and without...


I concur and I'll add that they have assembled similar "evidence" about several people already.


Why do people keep bringing up Ryan, it was an off-by-one error and the shooter killed himself so there's no way anyone could look at Ryan and discriminate against him for the wrong reason.

He's in a really terrible spot but it's not because of some confused reporting.


I have a laptop backpack like that. On Monday it was 27ºF at 6:30am when I left for work, but it was supposed to be 55-ish during the day. So, I wore a light jacket under my warmer jacket. My work laptop is a 15" Dell and is somewhat heavy.

When I was going home, I stuffed my lighter jacket in my backpack with my laptop... and it looked exactly like that. In crowded areas, when I'm not going anywhere, I almost always take off my backpack and put it between my legs. It's the only way I can safely swivel my upper body to look around without knocking people over.

Don't jump to conclusions. It's a dude with a big black backpack. There's hundreds of thousands of those in Boston. I would be surprised if there weren't a picture of a guy with a big black backpack in that area. Lots of people work around there and lots of people don't get the day off... I didn't. I saw a ton of regulars on the Commuter Rail that morning that obviously also didn't get the day off.

I applaud the efforts of people to scan photos looking for the perpetrators... but saying they may have found the guys responsible is incendiary and dangerous.


>Don't jump to conclusions. It's a dude with a big black backpack. There's hundreds of thousands of those in Boston. //

Yes, but are there not only a limited number who were at the bombed locations around the time of the Marathon. Identifying those - if the evidence about the bombs being in black bags is sound - gives you leads to investigate.

>but saying they may have found the guys responsible is incendiary and dangerous. //

It's also true. They may [huge huge caveat] have found the people.

Personally I think the only real way the public can help is to identify themselves and their family/friends in images that others have handed over or they've sent to the officials investigating (Boston FBI presumably).

I'm assuming that the office based enquiries are based on using available imagery to build a profile of all movements and to list people who may need to be interviewed. I poured over a few images (in one reddit thread) of the area of the bomb outside 671 Marathon Place and it was quite easy to spot certain people hanging around - what surprised me was that there wasn't already more imagery available. There must be many video feeds, CCTV and such in the area, eg from the shops at the bomb sites.


> gives you leads to investigate.

Anonymous are not investigators. As altruistic as their intentions may be here people cannot forget that. Leave the investigating to the real investigators who do this for a living. Random people on the internet are not going to see something that agents from multiple federal agencies wont see.

Your point about people from the public identifying themselves in pictures is a great one. That was what I first thought when someone posted a "suspicious" photo of a guy in a blue bathrobe. If I were that guy, and had nothing to do with the attack, I'd call the police right now and say, "hey that's me and I didnt do anything."


> Random people on the internet are not going to see something that agents from multiple federal agencies wont see.

I think you overestimate people who do that for a living. I think that what 4chan did, analyzing all those pictures with such minutia, real investigator would never have done.


I'm no expert on image manipulation. The only project I've ever done involving it was an ASCII Art converter. So it's possible I have no idea what I'm talking about...

That being said, I would be absolutely shocked if they weren't scanning photos of the event programmatically for items resembling a black bag, and then the people who were carrying them.


More speculation on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/findbostonbombers

Collaborative Google Doc for list of suspects: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0AgtCl8YvqiBodEl0...

Raw collections of photos: http://www.reddit.com/r/findbostonbombers/comments/1cipl7/ph...

IRC Channel: ##bostonspeculation

Closer up view of person in OP (includes shot of face): http://i.imgur.com/BBxplgk.jpg

Checking out the speculation is valuable because it gives the perspective that many such leads exist (and it is unlikely that they are all in on it.)


from a reddit thread on Richard Jewel

The Umbrella Man at Dealey Plaza, which shows how anything can look odd when scrutinized to an extreme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuoZWb9gqv0


I love this video and the story of "The Umbrella Man." This is a perfect example of quantum coincidences.


Thank you for sharing that. That was a fantastic short film.


That was absolutely beautiful.


I love how the girl standing behind him is also wearing a black backpack but isn't circled.


I wish for you the guy is not innocent and you're co-responsible for destroying his life.


If he is not innocent then you wouldn't be responsible for destroying anything... because then he'd be guilty and you'd be responsible for finding the murderer.

But I think what uchikoma was trying to say is that you may be ruining the life of an innocent man and that's not cool.


I have requested that the link to the photo is removed (too late for me to edit/delete the post).


The shot of face, also shows that he still has a bag, correcting the claim in OP's post.

Also note, the blown apart backpack image has been desaturated because the color is way off (again OP post).


Doesn't look too good. The subreddit is busy circling everybody with a backpack and the google doc doesn't even get the blast site right.


It occurs to me this incident is going to get drones in use at public events asap.

Because if you had several drones circling for 24 hours before the event with high resolution and night-vision cameras, you could trace every single person on each of their timelines before the event.

Awesome tool for when crime happens but what do we do when it's guaranteed to be abused?


David Brin's "The Transparent Society" talks about this.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004P5O37W/?tag=dedasys-20

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society

In short, the idea is to allow lots of watching, because it'll help reduce and solve crime, but also radically increase the watching of the watchers.


I believe an arms race between authorities and citizens when it comes to surveillance will also be a good thing. The thing we need to protect against is if governments make this kind of competition illegal, e.g. they can have CCTV cameras monitoring the front of your house, but you're not allowed to.


The watchers will not be watched.

They've read Brin and Orwell, and have learned. They pass legislation, or ignore existing laws when it's one of them that's threatened. Examples abound. Corruption is rife.


Well CCTVs, or even older technology like finger prints, could be used to reduce crime, while also resulting in abuse or a reduction in privacy and freedoms.

Its always been the job of society to be rational about this and look at the cost of further infringement upon your liberties vs the marginal utility offered by a tool which enhances crime fighting ability.


CCTV isn't going to trace you coming from your home, where you stopped along the way, how fast you went to each point and where you got out.

Drones can circle a city for days and with high resolution sensors can not miss a thing.

This isn't just a more advanced CCTV, it's a near-infallible machine.


CCTV isn't going to trace you coming from your home, where you stopped along the way, how fast you went to each point and where you got out.

Yes it is, that's quite common in Britain, or at least London, because CCTV coverage is so dense there. To turn your argument inside out, drone deployment is temporary whereas CCTV deployment tends to be permanent.


CCTV coverage in Britain is dense, yes, but it's exaggerated greatly.

The vast majority of them are low quality privately operated cameras that are not networked in any way, and with varying degrees of retention - all the way down to no retention at all.

It is incredibly hard for the police to trace someone based on CCTV even after the fact - even after the 7/7 bombings it took an immense amount of manpower to stitch together the movements of the bombers.

So while in theory, yes, you could be traced that way, in reality police often don't even bother gathering CCTV tapes from the cameras they know cover a relevant area unless it's for particularly serious crimes and they lack other evidence because of the cost involved.

In the central core of London, it's a little bit different in that there are sections that are well covered by police operated CCTV, but even then "well covered" usually means that operators decide what to focus on and zoom in on, so ongoing coverage of a specific location might be spotty.


About 8 years ago I had a chat over drinks with a guy responsible for a large part of Westminster Council's CCTV deployments. His take then was that the only limiting factor preventing total surveillance (which, as I recall, he viewed as a good thing) was bandwidth. Next up was storage. Next was the software to integrate the feeds and make them human-comprehensible.

None of these problems will last very much longer, in the grand scheme of things.


Westminster is "special" in that it is very dense, has a lot of violence compared to its affluence (due to the amount of nightclubs and bars etc) coupled with a massive amount of high priority buildings, and the combination of that means that it has far more government controlled CCTV than pretty much anywhere in Britain outside of City.

Westminster and City are probably the two small parts of London where there'd be a reasonable chance of "total surveillance".

But even Westminster is also chock full of CCTV dead zones due to the narrow streets and complicated building facades with lots of nooks and crannies - it might be "easy" to get coverage of people moving along the streets in Westminster, but incredibly hard to eliminate opportunities for people to hide away.


This isn't about CCTV vs Drones.

This is about forensic and surveillance technology advancement vs civil liberties, the expectation and right to privacy, and the abuse of new powers.

> ..tool for when crime happens but what do we do when it's guaranteed to be abused?

Law enforcement would love to be able to record all phone calls and keep comprehensive videos of every event.

Going backwards, people have argued for having people fingerprinted by default vs only when being processed during a criminal investigation.

In each case, it is the acceptance that while the tools are valuable, we draw the line saying that :

"Yes, the marginal utility of having 1 drone flying or 1 or a 100, vs their impact and chance for abuse is something we are uncomfortable with."

The question I suspect that is worth looking at, which I don't have data for, is the value of increased CCTV/Monitoring technology in solving crimes.

I'd rather offer a Stradivarius to someone who can get the most out of it, vs someone who can occasional hit the right notes from it.


This is the part I don't understand is that in almost any way you look at it CCTV are a benefit to the masses.

An example of one benefit to having CCTV spread out over downtown is that you can relieve some police presence and spread them out to places that aren't. Another benefit would be that crimes committed in downtown would be recorded forcing criminals to wear masks rather than relying on the shock of the incident to make the victim forget details about the perpetrators features. If you have criminals walking around wearing masks then they can be quite easy to spot.

Another benefit would be in the case of this bombing. When I first heard of the bombing I was pretty interested, I wanted to know who put the bombs there, when and then who they were and what their problem was. I figured well they'll pull up CCTV and we'll all know what happened.

Instead police are being relied on to manage all of it in the moment.

It isn't a violation of freedom to be filmed in public, that's completely legal. People just start getting up in arms about it when it's a service offered by the american government for some reason. Any private individual is allowed to film for who knows what reason.


So the world you want to live in is covered in CCTV and people being monitored everywhere? Sounds like a 'trust nobody' world, 1984 style... Don't you think it's about time we set about looking at why people commit these crimes and tackling these problems at the roots? Why not try and PREVENT these things from happening rather than acting after people have committed crimes by locking them up, which often only serves to create a life-long criminal rather than helping in any way.


One way you could prevent more bomb attacks from happening is by catching the people responsible for this one. Besides that, I am not advocating CCTV everywhere, but downtown, or Subways, places that see extremely high throughput cannot be policed effectively by the police on their own. If you would say that maybe it's a good thing police cannot police everything, then how can you say police are necessary in the first place? They are supposed to be there to police, the cameras do the same thing better.

Somewhere else in this thread people were talking about drones. But that can happen right now, through private surveillance firms that would then sell information to the government. But then you're just lining some CEOs pocketbook instead of having a surplus. How is that a benefit?


The approaches are not mutually exclusive.


It isn't a violation of freedom to be filmed in public, that's completely legal.

"legal" is hardly the same thing as "[not] a violation of freedom"; in fact they're often orthogonal.


Things are going to be stressful then as google glass gets popular. ;)


> CCTV isn't going to trace you coming from your home, where you stopped along the way, how fast you went to each point and where you got out.

Why not?


Do you really want a non-sarcastic answer to that?

Use some common sense: CCTV cameras aren't ubiquitous. There are gaps in coverage all over the place.


You just add very many more cctv cameras.

You don't need total coverage. You just make sure some cameras have calibrated timestamps and automatic number plate recognition. That allows you to build up a sequence of cctv coverage of suspects.

The UK has one fifth of installed CCTV in the world. With that many cameras they pretty much are ubiquitous.


You've obviously never visited London.


And yet if the police wanted to trace you, they'd face utter hell of figuring out who operates what camera (mostly private businesses monitoring their own premises or immediate surroundings; sometimes local councils or agencies such as TfL; very occasionally a police force), get them to agree to hand over tapes (or get a court order), assuming the tapes have not already been deleted, and that the camera worked at the time. Repeat for pretty much every camera, and fan out every time they can't see you...

While we're on camera most of the time in London, we can be pretty confident that the sheer hassle of obtaining footage and cost in processing them keeps the police from abusing it all that much...


Nah, I reckon there's at least 150yds between my flat and a commute into the centre of London (~8mi) where there's no camera coverage.

Possibly even 200yds!


Not sure how accurate this is, but it seems fairly believable.

http://youtu.be/Okk26NOLry8

EDIT: The link above is a Reuters reports (Uploaded in 2011) on London's use of Ipsotek's Tag & Track software (now owned by BAE Systems http://www.baesystems.com/page/BAES_026518)

EDIT 2: Sorry, apparently not owned by BAE Systems, they're partners.


You forget: London is already tooled up for Case Nightmare Green.


Use some common sense: There are gaps in drone coverage all over the place.


Drone coverage can adapt and follow specific targets, that's the difference.


How do you follow a specific target, if you don't know who the target is until after you've analyzed the recordings?


They now have drones with a very wild field of view so that you don't need to target the camera anywhere, it just records an entire city from above.


Ah, yeah, there are gaps in drone coverage in that sense.


The drones have flux capacitors, they are near-infallible machines.


In what sense would the drones be ubiquitous?


> near-infallible machine.

Here is where the discussion jumps the shark.


Awesome tool for when crime happens

False Premise

--

Crime doesn't happen on a set timetable. So how do you determine when it should or shouldn't be in use?

For something like this, and most crimes(if not all) I don't see how a drone really helps all that much anyway. The standard procedures work well enough. Crimes like this are generally "solved." The goal, however, should be to prevent them.

When something like this does slip through the cracks though, it's important to "Keep Calm and Carry On," not get all bent out of shape and fuck up your society.


The number of drones you'd need to do that for even one localized event would be huge, and hugely expensive. London's much denser and more economical CCTV network has been a giant boondoggle by everyone whose job doesn't depend on declaring it a success.


Military has multi-GIGApixel sensors on drones. They can watch huge portions of a city at one.

It would only take several drones to watch the entire city from altitude.

https://www.google.com/search?q=argus-is

The ARGUS-IS can stream up to a million terabytes of data and record 5,000 hours of HD footage per day. It can do this by the 1.8 gigapixel camera and 368 different sensors all housed in the ARGUS-IS.


If I'm going to be living in this surveillance society future, do I at least get an app that navigates me to the nearest open parking space?


I really wanted to build this... a small fleet of drones that would find the nearest parking space to my house when I leave work in case there is a football match on and my street is blocked. Unfortunately I imagine it's illegal to fly drones with cameras above city streets. :(


Your imagination has it wrong.


This is happening in London although with ground based rather then air based sensors. http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/transportandstreets/p...


I'm sure the government will allow consumer applications like self-driving cars to be rerouted around traffic jams, nearest parking spots. The same thing has already happened with GPS.


Except the more you want to watch, the higher up it needs to be, or everything of interest will be obscured by buildings. Which means, that, sure, you can get massive amounts of footage, of peoples heads / hats / caps. It might be useful in helping to track someones path so you can use other cameras to try to identify them, but if you want to identify people you're going to need a lot of cameras at low height.


Continuous tracking is far more valuable than having an image of a person's face and obtaining the latter from the results of the former can easily be done.


<i>The ARGUS-IS can stream up to a million terabytes of data and record 5,000 hours of HD footage per day. It can do this by the 1.8 gigapixel camera and 368 different sensors all housed in the ARGUS-IS.</i>

It takes a very long day to record 5,000 hours of of footage per day with a single camera.


Depends on playback speed.


Also depends on the army of meat-based drones analyzing the data on the ground.


>The ARGUS-IS can stream up to a million terabytes of data

Jesus. How? That's 11.5TB p/s


Complete guess, but maybe laser to satellite, then relayed from there?


CCTV takes pictures of people's faces.

Drones take pictures of the tops of people's heads.


You do understand about oblique aerial photography. The only reason you think drones can't see people's faces is because you're used to seeing aerial photography from Google Maps. A drone can certainly see at an angle.


In a built up area, though, you'll only get narrow lines of sight at oblique angles, because most of the ground is hidden behind buildings. A drone could look down a straight road, but it's not like a handful of drones could track everyone in a city.


Drones are capable of tracing a persons movements which would make them easier to find than a face picture.


It would take one drone and maybe five years at the rate the tech is improving.

ARGUS is taking care of the 'problem.'

http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-free-speech-...


Playing devil's advocate, what are the guaranteed abuses if drones are used in this context? You could certainly make a slippery slope argument, but at a huge event that is taking place in public there can be no assumption of privacy. Is a drone any different in this context than any other type of camera?


Is a drone any different in this context than any other type of camera?

uh yeah... Cameras have a focal point, a drone creates a kind of panopticon.


I am not sure I follow you on this one. It isn't like the type of technology used in drones can't be used in stationary cameras. A drone is simply a flying version making it ideal for short term deployments like surveillance on an annual sporting even like the Boston Marathon.


Drones are now being designed for long term and essentially permanent deployment.


Do you think drones would have changed the outcome?


Whilst it's truly amazing that they've found 3 separate photos of the same person in the same spot at the blast there's a few questions that come to mind:

- If he was planning to commit the atrocity he did, why would you stand & talk to someone? (unless they were perhaps working together)

- There's a water bottle in the backpack which leads me to believe that person is a runner?

- The bag seems a bit small to hold a 6L pressure cooker. Plus he doesn't seem to be straining/leaning forward.

- If you're standing in the crowd most people will take a backpack off & put it at their feet?

- The crowd in the second & third photos is much busier which means it's not the same spot. If you planted a bomb why would you stand in the crowd?

Been trying to line up the flags in the last 2 photos to get an idea of where he's standing but can't manage it.


> If you're standing in the crowd most people will take a backpack off & put it at their feet?

I do. Both to alleviate the weight, minimize the space I take up as well as reduce the chance of someone slipping a hand inside my bag. Likewise when I'm carrying a messenger.

I'm a little weary of this set of pictures. It seems like he's edging to the front of the crowd, whereas I thought the explosions occurred a little further back. Moving to the front would be a great way to get stuck, much like ending up against the rails at a concert.

Anyhow, I think crowd sourcing this kind of investigation can potentially be of great help to law enforcement, but I really hope the internet community keeps itself in check when it comes to determining guilt & doling out punishment.


>it's truly amazing that they've found 3 separate photos of the same person in the same spot at the blast //

I looked at a few flickr images and identified about 6 people who were in 2 or 3 images at the location of the Marathon Place bomb¹ without too much effort. So I don't find that particularly amazing.

>If you're standing in the crowd most people will take a backpack off & put it at their feet? //

Based on this limit section of the marathon watchers that "most" appears to be patently false. I only saw one guy standing in that area with a bag between his legs but at least 20 other backpacks (or similar). This surprised me, I hold my backpack on my front in any crowd to try to avoid being robbed.

¹ - you can use the video footage to "triangulate" the location, the video line-of-sight passes through a tree from the centre of the finish line, you can see these details on Google Maps. Around the area between the South African and Norwegian flags.


> If he was planning to commit the atrocity he did, why would you stand & talk to someone? (unless they were perhaps working together)

They are photographed together in both photos, both carrying bags.

But I believe it's jumping to conclusions way way too quickly.


Two bombs exploded, and some reports of other devices being found.

In the crowdsource images, there are so far three possible 'guy nearby with backpack, then spotted walking away apparently without backpack'.

Keep in mind that there may be multiple people involved.

Dammit I hate 'slideshow' pages like http://www.reuters.com/article/slideshow/idUSBRE93F06T201304... Such a pain saving the images. Reuters, please just post a zipfile somewhere of the original full resolution images, please, please.

Some more good images at http://cryptome.org/2013-info/04/boston-bombs/boston-bombs.h... http://cryptome.org/2013-info/04/boston-bombs-02/boston-bomb...


> There's a water bottle in the backpack which leads me to believe that person is a runner?

Doesn't every stereotypical American have a giant bottle of water in hand / on his/her lips every two minutes?

> If you planted a bomb why would you stand in the crowd?

Makes sense for suicide bombers.


> Doesn't every stereotypical American have a giant bottle of water in hand / on his/her lips every two minutes?

s/water/soda if you enjoy stereotyping so much.


/b/ has also posted this one. http://imgur.com/icyyRLK



Not convincing, despite the accusations here. You can find the guy moving away from the blast, into the crowd, with his backpack in most of the shots being used for the other suspects.

What's hilarious is someone thinks it is very convincing while posting a spreadsheet that shows it is not...


This one actually looks like the backpack in the FBI photo. Specifically the gray stripes on the shoulder straps.


I think this pic needs its own top level comment. This looks very convincing to me.


The bag looks heavy too, and placing it on the arm allows a quick drop.

Try this: http://i.imgur.com/E4AmAk1.jpg


That's a woman dealing with a baby in a stroller.


Yeah, this one is very convincing. There are a few other pictures of this guy all over Reddit with different angles/face shot. The bag appears to match. But there were plenty of other people in the immediate area with similar bags.

Also, some people put their bags down near/between their legs to watch the race. That doesn't mean they were planting a bag. Something to consider.

I'm sure the FBI is all over Reddit and every site/photo they can get their hands on.

Neat little Google Spreadsheet here breaking down the suspects, photos, etc. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?key=0AgtCl8YvqiBodEl0...

I think there's a ton of photographic evidence out there, a lot of which we don't have access to (CCTV, pro photographers, media, etc.) FBI has all of this is analyzing it like crazy.

I wonder what kind of system they are using to create a virtual timeline of events with photos and video evidence to sift through the content...


You can tell by the scraggly beard that he's guilty.


Wait, that guy is the topic picture as well. http://imgur.com/Wp2dH21


Is the guy in the brown top meant to be walking away WITHOUT a backpack?

Because I can't see either way. He looks like me MIGHT still have a backpack on.

Also the backpack seems small based on what's meant to be in it?


That one is much more convincing than the one in OP.


They're all very convincing. Probably because there are thousands of people with backpacks at an event like this, and they tend to take them off and put them on when they stop or want to take something out. But hey, let's just get their photos posted all over the internet as bombing suspects.


Just asking out of curiosity: Do the US not have some right of being in photo, being singled out and shown without consent?

Wouldn't it be a crime or at least be against basic human rights?

Trying to understand, as I'm not american and wish to come to grips with the reasoning behind showing these images in public and not mailing them to law-enforcement.

edit: Killing repeating use of "just asking" ;-)


The other responders are correct, in a public place you do not have an expectation of privacy, so a photographer can capture you image and you can't stop them. However, should that photographer chose to publish the image, things get more complicated.

Take the example of an ad agency snapping a picture of you on a public sidewalk and later broadcasting that image in a $10M CocaCola Superbowl commercial. You own your own image, and are owed compensation for that advertisement. And it is fully within your rights to not accept an agency's offer to compensate you at all, thereby preventing them from legally using the image you have been capture in for commercial purposes.

Now, if you are in a picture, but nearly impossible to identify (ie: a crowd shot taken at a baseball game, or a marathon finish) then the image can probably be used without your permission and without compensation.

Newsworthy events, of which this clearly qualifies, also change the rules. Press have expanded rights when it comes to publication of images. But is reddit a news site? When it comes to UGC relating to a news worthy event, do the individuals publishing enjoy similar rights to the press? To what extent? And assuming that there aren't 6 murderers all wearing backpacks, can the innocent ones successfully sue for defamation if/when their names get published?

Answers to these questions aren't clear, so I expect that one of these internet-witch-hunts-that-identify-the-wrong-person will end up in court sometime soon. Maybe one already has? Anyone know?


Thanks for clarification. I only have the knowledge from the German perspective so it is interesting to see, how this is handled in other countries.


I am not a lawyer, but I think you're safe sharing photos of public places. I don't think you have an expectation of privacy in a public place.


Not in the us. You are only shielded from pictures in places where you have the expectation of privacy; the bathroom or your bedroom when it's unknown to you are good examples. The finish line of the Boston marathon doesn't have this type of privacy guarantee.


Another reddit comment/thread that is also interesting..... appears that another person wearing a backpack was in fact an undercover of some kind: http://www.reddit.com/r/findbostonbombers/comments/1cij0q/la...

Very curious to know this person's story. Looks like a fed.


The funny thing is, that there are at least six people with black nylon backpacks in the picture. So obviously an entire swarm of terrorists is depicted...


I feel the same way. This thing is ridiculous, someone could name the person in the image, and media will go after them. But in the end they will end up innocent and their life in ruins. As much as this may seem like a good idea, 4chan or the internet should away from pointing fingers at random people with backups.


Thomas Crowne affair.

But: yes.

Crowdsourcing may be useful to develop leads. But LEO really should take it from there.


Seriously what is going on here? Why are they the only people standing there not helping who aren't holding a camera, holding a head wound or old?


They're trying to find out if there are other devices or if there are bombers still around.


So if they are feds then someone literally planted this bomb right under their noses.


The problem with a mob is the lack of due process. If 4chan were to try to exact justice themselves and get it wrong (or right for that matter), stuff could get ugly fast. That said, I'm all for crowdsourcing discovery from people with downtime to pour over images as long as the discoveries are processed properly.


Whoever placed these devices is/are presumably still lying low someplace in New England right now and has demonstrated a willingness to murder/maim innocent people and could be planning to do so again.

Frankly "due process" does not seem that important right now (as soon somebody is formally detained or accused, agree with you 100% on due process), but what is most important at this moment is getting credible leads/clues into the hands of law enforcement as quickly as possible.

The people poring over photographs are doing just that


It is when due process seems the least important that it is in fact the most important.


That sounds like something a terrorist would say. I don't think we can take the risk of not keeping you in jail until we've sorted this.


And thanks to NDAA he can be detained indefinitely for that very reason! These are scary times.


Without due process, law enforcement is just the vengeful application of (well financed) power.


Random groups of people on the Internet are stitching together photographs to help find the people who did this- that's not a police action or legal proceeding yet


Now apply that in reverse, that is, a militant regime trying to identify legal but politically inconvenient protesters. Relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw3h-rae3uo


Throwing a lot of eyeballs at this identification problem is fine given the circumstances of this tragedy and doesn't rise to the level of something like imposing martial law.

Whether those eyeballs belong to proper investigators or random folks on an internet forum is largely irrelevant right now since the people who did this are still at large and no one has yet claimed responsibility.


Not to be a debbie downer, but this seems like a more sophisticated version of a witch hunt...

I assume most people here are completely against drone coverage and yet we are thrilled at the idea of going through public pictures and pointing out people who brought backpacks to an event...


"We're too smart to be part of a witch hunt."


I don't get those saying this is unproductive, it is the classic appeal to authority. "The FBI know what they are doing". No doubt they do but currently technology doesn't allow a computer to work it out from all the footage and pictures and the sheer volume means that those on the case will probably take a long time to sift through it all.

What harm is it if the public puts forward some suggestions and some of those investigating use them as a starting point? All this information is in the public domain, I don't think we can simply pretend it doesn't exist.


We shouldn't pretend it doesn't exist however a forum like Hacker News should be quick to identify and upvote flaws in the analysis.

None of the 4chan analysis photos I've seen are anything close to reasonable. They all have blatantly obvious flaws and the pictures do not support the claims being made. In this case, a few commenters have pointed it out but there are many valid explanations for the "no backpack" shots the main one being that because the crowd is much thicker the backpack is removed and being held at his feet. It's a very common thing to do and there's nothing at all suspicious about this behavior.


Wonderful, now the US have investigators, spies, money, and stuff for that, so thanks 4chan for tackling last Mondays terrors attacks on Iraq where 6 times more people died in a coordinated terror attack on many cities. And Iraq doesn't have any real police, spies or security for that matter, since you know, invasion.


Iraq has fewer people online and less comprehensive internet access.


yeah, that too.


Or that could be Richard Jewell.


Some people but their bag on the ground between the legs cause they are tired.


And, the lighting/angle/resolution in the later two pics don't allow a strong read, at least to my eyes, as to whether the backpack is still being carried. (Zooming in didn't help me get any more confidence either way... perhaps the originals, motivating this claim, are of higher resolution or less-compression than this collage?)

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if photos like these, and crowdsourced examination, does generate actionable leads.


[deleted]


Of course it would be outstanding if this leads to the people who did this cruel act but there's always something holding me back if we prejudge people. It could destroy their lives if they are innocent.


For the more forensically minded, this Reuters story [1] has a surprising amount of medium-res but closeup photos of bomb component fragments, for example enough to identify the kind of battery employed [2].

1. http://www.reuters.com/article/slideshow/idUSBRE93F06T201304...

2. http://www.amazon.com/Tenergy-3000mAh-Battery-Tamiya-Connect...


Unfortunately there's nowhere near enough resolution to identify anything beyond the battery and wire labels. Do those bozos think they're saving useful amounts of bandwidth by using postage-stamp size images in 2013?

Part of photo 16/28 looks somewhat like a ferrite loopstick from the AM radio portion of a portable radio, but again it's hard to be sure. The distinction is important because if that's what it is, then this PC board is probably from a benign device that just happened to be carried by someone nearby.


They probably want other media outlets to pay for the high-resolution photos. They're not postage-stamp sized, nor are the people bozos for not making your life maximally convenient. You could try searching for larger-resolution versions with Tineye or so, though chances are the FBI are way ahead of everyone on this since they employ specialists in this sort of thing.

As for the ferrite loopstick, it occurs to me that if the battery pack is from an RC device (which is what it's marketed as), the bomb maker have used the RC interface as a trigger. But that's just a guess.


They're not postage-stamp sized

Yes, they are, on my monitor.

nor are the people bozos for not making your life maximally convenient.

Yes, they are bozos. The FBI released those photos to the press for a reason. What do you suppose that reason might have been?


Well, we can't all size things for your small monitor Bob. They're about postcards-zied on mine, but perhaps larger-resoltuion versions will show up on Google images in a day or two. I don't know whether the FBI intended for them to be released or not, according to CBS the pictures were obtained from a leaked intelligence bulletin to local forces. If the FBI really wanted them widely available I imagine they'd put hem up on FBI.gov, and who knows, maybe they will.

I just don't see the value in insulting people for having their systems run to your specifications. It makes you sound like a dick. I suggest you write to them and offer to host the high-resolution versions or something.


I suggest you write to them and offer to host the high-resolution versions or something.

Yeah, I'll write to Reuters and see if they need to borrow some bandwidth from some random guy with a cable modem. There's a plan.

Seriously: why are you defending the all-too-common practice of posting miniscule images in important news stories?


I'm not defending it Bob. I'm objecting to you whining about people being bozos, and I wish now I had just ignored you the first time.


I'd certainly not try to discourage you.


I believe you're linking to the wrong battery. Looking closely at the electronic speed controller PCB in the (cruddy, low res) pictures, those look like Traxxas connectors still attached to the ESC and you linked to a Tamiya connector battery. Whatever glob of plastic is on the ends of the ESC cables, I've done enough RC over the past decades to tell thats not tamiya connector, not even a heat damaged one, and enough ham radio stuff to tell its not a powerpole or remains thereof. The orientation of the connector does not look Deans connector like either. There really are not many popular RC battery connectors out there. One interesting point to note is the Tamiya connector battery is Amazon's 3rd best seller and although I haven't figured out which Tenergy battery w/ Traxxas connector this is, I'm sure its sales rank is way below 3rd.

You can trivially google for RC car traxxas connector and compare the pics to the pix of the ESC used.

Of course the overall "project" was probably kit bashing a ready to run full kit, not buying bits and pieces off amazon one at a time. Of course if you google for ready to run RC cars sold with traxxas connectors and tenergy batteries there really aren't that many possibilities. So that is interesting. If they find the remains of the RX that should probably narrow it down to like, one model of car or something. At which time things will likely get exciting for retailers of that ready to run model...


You're surely right. I just searched on the brand name of the battery itself, and didn't even try to guess at the PCB/connector type, I'm not an RC guy.


The zipper pull tab looks like a Fox logo - like from Fox Motorsports.


Crowd-sourced vigilantism, just what the world needed!


Is there any other kind?


Don't use drones or CCTV.

Crowd source the security.

I the modern world we don't take pictures of people we don't know, its considered rude. We let the state do it because somehow they are not human. However if it became the norm that 50% of a crowd of people took pictures of everybody else then you have a massive record to call upon when a crime happens. If nothing happens then the jigsaw is incomplete and privacy is maintained.


Imagine if 50% of the crowd was wearing google glass


I like your idea. How to turn it into public policy?


With great power comes great bullshit.


On the photo where backpack is missing he could just take it off and put it on the ground or on his knees. It's uncomfortable to sit in such a dense crowd with backpack on. I just hope this isn't another case of false accusing by media. Let FBI do their work before judge anyone.


Wow, if this leads to the bomber being caught, then that is amazing.

This truly goes for most large online communities that I have seen. They all have their negative aspects, but this is an example of the combined efforts reaching a productive conclusion.


I'm seeing people putting red circles around dark skinned people wearing suspicious clothing.


Those images were taken around 11 AM. The bomb didn't go off for nearly 4 more hours. So there would have to have been a suspicious looking bag in front of the store there for almost 4 hours. These guys were walking away from the bomb location.

We don't have access to the images being sent to the FBI, which I imagine might include a lot of personal photographs taken on phones. Deadspin's images from a few minutes before the first explosion show clearly that there were a lot of people in the vicinity actively taking pictures in all directions, so I suspect someone got a shot of the area where the bag was placed (near the intersection of the wall of the Lenscrafter's and the black railing) within 10-20 minutes of the explosion.

This is all based on public photographs and poorly coordinated timestamps. There are likely 100x as many being submitted as evidence that we can't see. It'd be nice if they were all public, as the leads a mass of volunteer investigators could turn up might result in something credible, but privacy and everything.


A classic case of confirmation bias?


Interestingly enough, the phenomenon 4chan/reddit/Something Awful and other free-spirited trollish communities embarking on activities like this has precedence in China: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07Human-t.html?pa...


It's hilarious to see anything from /pol/ show up on Hacker News.


Yeah seriously, I thought it was going to be a cold day in hell before anyone (especially HN) took information seriously coming from a board where people think that the jews have organized and are working on world domination.


New photo: http://i.imgur.com/rTiaLuZ.jpg. This definitely looks like a placed bomb bag to me. Who knows if any of the pictures on 4chan could have been photoshoped though, but I've yet to see one of those before.


more backpacks http://imgur.com/a/xPKgL


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