The story of 'internet wizards find Boston suspects' was too good to not publish. The media portrayed it as hackers using their intelligence and the resources of the internet to track down criminals, but it ended up being nothing more than some people flicking through photos and profiling based on race, appearance etc.
In total I saw over two dozen people marked as 'suspects'. I open Facebook and my non-tech friends are all sharing homemade 'WANTED' posters with full pictures of the people identified. Everybody was suspect until they were 'cleared' - the very definition of a witch hunt. Digital vigilante justice.
Nobody learned their lesson, because it was only a couple of hours later that the media were reporting that suspect #2 was the missing Brown kid. I switched on prime time news in Australia and the news that the Brown student was terrorist suspect number two was the top story!. Speechless.
I tried in vain to get the reddit threads removed and shutdown (IMO they violate the 'no dox' rule) but got nowhere. The privacy right of individuals are being torn apart by online mobs (I was told in a reply that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to worry about). It depresses me to think that nothing will be learned from this entire experience.
This is exactly why the government feels like they should get involved in regulating the internet, because we aren't taking care of it ourselves. I can already see how a case will be put together next week using the reddit witch hunt threads as a reason why the internet needs censorship. Think about what our responses are going to be to that.
There is a big difference between sharing a photo and asking if it might contain a suspect and posting a "wanted poster" or having national media announce that someone is a suspect. The former is what I saw on reddit, if the later happened it wasn't on that site.
There should be a way to have an online discussion without people jumping to conclusions.
You're factually incorrect, or maybe you were just looking in the wrong place: http://i.imgur.com/R0CZtwR.png and http://www.reddit.com/r/findbostonbombers/comments/1co0d5/he... and I guess there are countless others.
Not to mention that I learned the names of the wrongly accused "suspects" from Hacker News first, but I guess we'll just keep digging our heads in the sand and carry on like nothing has ever happened.
Every (even arguably) inappropriate comment I saw was quickly responded to by others.
EDIT (Added) : Of course given human nature it's inevitable that some people will jump to conclusions, but should that invalidate the discussion itself ? I don't think so. It seems to me like banning criticism of the government because some people might start a revolution.
Yes - it seems speculators here got it right this time.
Somebody get OP reddit gold for life.
Reddit was right!
gif of missing brown student & suspect in marathon bombing (subsequently tweeted by Salon, etc.)
Dude...this thread is going to go down in history!
Reddit 1.... news media 0
What we do online is a reflection of what we do offline. To think that there aren't offline hunts and people who go around shouting those things without the internet is absurd. To suggest this is why we need internet censorship easily lends its self to the argument that people's every day offline lives need to be monitored and controlled.
When you stand on a street corner shouting ‘This guy did it’ with a picture of said guy, how many people do you reach as compared to a similar post on Reddit?
Conversely, what is the status of other mass-media (newspapers, radio, TV etc.) regarding the information they publish? Will a radio ever broadcast ‘This guy did it’ without some fact-checking? At least here (Germany), that is not/should not be the case.
The very easy way to solve this problem would obviously be to improve defamation/libel laws to such an extend that wrongfully accusing someone of X gets you the maximum penalty for X as a minimum. At least people posting Wanted posters on Facebook should be easy to catch, then.
Without going too deep into the hole of metaphors, a guy standing on the street corner shouting about anything has the same credibility as the author of http://www.timecube.com/
Maybe the FBI should give out karma to tipsters. (This last sentence is sarcasm.)
Given that police mobilised near the suspects' apartment only around or after the time that their address was hitting social media, I suspect that at least in this case, many cops on the ground (and using their radios) were getting info at roughly the same pace as everyone else.
e.g., if there's an official statement, it will be a press briefing or designated as something official.
While I suspect the Boston police department's number one priority is finding the marathon bombing suspects, wouldn't it be logical that their other cases would still be discussed?
EDIT: I agree with the premise of this thread ... it's interesting to watch the real-time parts of the case, but drawing conclusions should be:
a) Not be done in real-time
b) Based on known facts
c) Vetted by multiple sources
Why did you try to get reddit threads closed, and not get the Australian TV news station closed?
Most of those people have probably never even heard of reddit yet along give two shits about some collateral damage in an investigation of terrorism.
Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.
"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."
Note that the "off-topic" guidelines contain two exceptions. The first sentence provides an exception for interesting new phenomenon. The interaction between social media, traditional media, and the police in this case is interesting and new enough to arguably qualify. The "cover it on TV news" sentence says it is probably off-topic, not that it certainly is.
I think the thing that must be remembered is that almost nobody who reads HN reads it in a vacuum. I'm willing to bet that almost every user here has an account on another website which is more suitable for discussing current events. HN isn't in competition with these sites, and it doesn't need to have their breadth. This is a site for engineers and developers about technology.
BTW, Freenode #boston channel is not a bad place to follow it.
Do you think that was intended just as a temporary resource, a suggestion that he did think this was on-topic or just got caught up in the moment, or was an invitation to discuss the new level of live public participation (to whatever extent) in the unveiling of a big story?
I think there's an interesting discussion to be had around the latter.
As I said in the linked thread, I have a very strong dislike of typical 24-hour news broadcasts, but I have found the online tracking of this story as it's unveiled quite gripping. Been following it really closely for maybe five hours?
(I'm trying hard not to say what HN policy should be with this comment. Just explaining human behavior.)
Without a doubt this story qualifies as "on topic". The way digital media has been used, 'crowdsleuthing', social media, the unprecedented lockdown of a city....could go on and on.
In fact, I'd go further. Almost all the threads about the bombs are pretty much content-free. There's very little of interest to hackers. Even the stuff that could have been interesting ("How do you examine very many photographs and video clips for clues?") was left ignored.
I flagged a lot of threads. There's been some suggestions that flagging a popular thread works against the person flagging. That's a shame if it's true, because some threads just don't belong here even if they are popular.
There we go - looks like it's not possible to be on a strict news diet but keep oneself updated with tech news only.
On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting...anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity. Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports...
Speaking personally, I love reading about EFF taking the US government to court, which is politics. I also love reading about the technical advancements in Formula 1, which is sports. Sports and politics, yes, but also very gratifying to my intellectual curiosity.
Here's the thing: I wouldn't want to see them on Hacker News, because I can (and do) get them elsewhere. This particular community gives me things I can't get elsewhere, and I love it for that. I don't want it to become another Reddit (or even another Slashdot, or Digg, or Gawker, or TechCrunch, Cracked, Metafilter, or ZDNet).
Hacker News is not (yet) a general purpose "news for nerds" or "all your internet goodness curated", and the longer we can stave off its descent into the general-purpose semi-curated things of somewhat geeky Internet interest, as every other good site of any age seems to have descended to, the better.
> A crap link is one that's only superficially interesting. Stories on HN don't have to be about hacking, because good hackers aren't only interested in hacking, but they do have to be deeply interesting.
> What does "deeply interesting" mean? It means stuff that teaches you about the world. A story about a robbery, for example, would probably not be deeply interesting. But if this robbery was a sign of some bigger, underlying trend, then perhaps it could be.
> The worst thing to post or upvote is something that's intensely but shallowly interesting. Gossip about famous people, funny or cute pictures or videos, partisan political articles, etc. If you let that sort of thing onto a news site, it will push aside the deeply interesting stuff, which tends to be quieter.
EFF taking US Government to court could fit here, because it doesn't have to be partisan politics, and it could be a deeply interesting discussion of legal process. I've learnt a lot about US law from contributors here. "Vettel Wins" is sports, "Redbull use X to help Vettel win" is probably tech.
I agree about not wanting to see them on HN; while they could be discussed well and in conformance to the site guidelines they're usually not.
I don't come to HN for updates on current events, I come here for the interesting commentary. I do not agree with the 'Vigilante' threads, which will be flagged, but news threads with a healthy discussion have some value.
Have you looked at the comments on any news site article?
This may not be in line with HN's intended goal, but it's a side effect akin to bringing critical minds to the water cooler conversation.
For example, it would have been great if the FBI had put up a site with instructions like "use this form to upload better pictures of this person". Because seemingly within minutes of the FBI releasing really bad photos, Reddit had found much better photos, knew their exact hats, etc. But the communication between the two was incredibly haphazard.
1. And let me tell you, these folks have reason to be mad at USA. While I understand blowing up people is never a reasonable reaction, religion is not the origin of the problem.
EDIT: And I see your youtube vid link, it's the same issue. Religion is the not the cause, it is exploited by people who want power.