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Student falsely IDed by Reddit as Boston bomber found dead (theregister.co.uk)
43 points by alan_cx 1427 days ago | hide | past | web | 29 comments | favorite

Since the title of this and all coverage I have seen of this is ambigous. It appears the student comitted suicide _before_ being ID'ed by Reddit. Not the other way around

Great - I'm happy we got that out of the way. Now the detectives over at 4chan will feel much better.

It pisses me off that so many people are shaking their finger at the Reddit community over grief caused by falsely identifying this kid as the bomber... The real issue is that much of the media decided to do their reporting by going to what amounts to a message board of speculation and reporting it as if it were news. Yes, some users did get out of hand by posting on the family's website, but in reality, that can be summed up more easily by saying "assholes on the internet were assholes." Stop blaming the Reddit community for the entire debacle. It was only a small percentage of the users as well.

There wasn't, as far as I can tell, any mainstream media reports about Sunil being involved in the Boston marathon bombing, the only accusations were from redditors tricked by a faked police scanner report that supposedly IDed him as the bomber.

Edit: A relevant comment from a journalist regarding the situation: http://www.reddit.com/r/blog/comments/1cvb9b/reflections_on_...

    As a member of the reddit community, I was really disappointed with the 
    Sunil Tripathi debacle. D'you know why his name wasn't widespread in 
    the press as a suspect? Because generally we like to ask police for 
    confirmation on a suspect name before publishing it.

    If reddit users want to act like journalists, they should follow the same 
    procedures. You're not special just because it's "the internet"

When I was watching NBC the morning of the Watertown incident, during a phone interview, one of their 'chief investigative correspondents' said, he wouldn't say who, but a Brown University student that went missing in March was the prime suspect. Given what he did say, he might as well have given the name. Not excusing redditors by any means, but I did see it mentioned on national television, for what it's worth.

Reddit, the website, enabled the labeling of the victim. They apologized for it too[1]; they wouldn't have done so if they didn't recognize some kind of moral responsibility for what happened.

While no one should imply that every reddit user is responsible, a thought should be spared as to whether or not false accusations and mob hunts must be a fundamental part of social news. If so, it is worth spending the time asking ourselves how we can avoid it in the future; and if they are unavoidable, how we can limit the damage they cause (or, in the extreme case, if we even want to encourage the continued existence of social news sites like Reddit if the effects are judged too extreme).


That's kind of how groups, from sports teams to entire nations, work. To greater or lesser extents, minorities do in fact very often represent the majority and greater entity in the public eye. It's usually futile to attempt to hide behind rationalizations (or, in this case, blame shifting). Groups often police themselves for this very reason.

Also, as mentioned elsewhere, the "media" didn't have all that much to do with this particular fiasco.

Yes, the any legitimate media outlets that reported Tripathi was one of the bombers screwed up big time. The reason I blame the Reddit users who were involved in initially accusing him is because they were very aware that the news media could, and likely would, report on their speculation. Early on in the /r/findbostonbombers subreddit rules were posted that specifically addressed the media. One of the rules stated was to not report on the speculation because it was just that. Frankly, I found that to be a naive and weak attempt and preemptively absolving themselves of their own misdeed.

Yeah, the media screwed up by reporting media but if I jump in the lion's cage at the zoo I'm not going to blame the lion if I get eaten.

I'm offended by your broad and overreaching reference to "much of the media". Yes, some media did report it that way, but in reality, that can be summed up more easily by saying "sensationalist headlines drive clicks and newsstand sales". Stop blaming the media community. It was only a small percentage of the media (e.g., Springfield Daily Shopper, United Airlines Hemispheres(r) Magazine and mainstream TV media such as Home Shopping Network did not participate in Reddit vilification).

I think people misunderstand what reddit is. It's not a media organisation. It's a place where anyone can join in on a conversation. People get together and they speculate.

I'm sure there were lots of people getting together in the "real world" and discussing those events and speculating.

I'm not sure there's anything wrong with people speculating about events, though it depends on how they do it and how they present their speculations and what they do on the basis of their speculations.

The only redeeming factor, such as it is, is that he appears to have died before the bombings. So Reddit caused his family great pain, but probably wasn't a factor in causing his death.

Reddit did not "cause them pain", the people who harassed them did.

Same argument about Nazi's vs. Jews. Nazi's didn't put them in internment camps, the specific solders in the army did it. The rest of the army was not to blame.

Of course if the Nazi party hadn't existed at all, those soldiers wouldn't have had any reason to do it. So you can't completely absolve Reddit from blame. But really the fact that anyone used a reddit forum to report or investigate to begin with is laughable. That would be like going to Somethingawful forums for dating advice.

The title should say "Student falsely IDed by Reddit and 4chan"...

No, the title should say, "Brown University student, missing since 15th of March, found dead."

That would not make story interesting/relevant enough to be the tech news.

Correct, but I will not encourage ambiguous and sensational titles for the sake of 'being interesting/relevant enough to be tech news'.

Or, more accurately, "Student falsely IDed by some users on massive popular sites Reddit and 4chan."

I will never understand why it's acceptable to talk about the actions of a small percentage of a user base as if they represent the entire group.

>I will never understand why it's acceptable to talk about the actions of a small percentage of a user base as if they represent the entire group.

Because if the group tolerates it, and is known to do that kind of thing frequently, they DO represent it.

The group as a whole has to be aware of it to tolerate it as a whole. This is not the case with a lot of Reddit users. Personally, I didn't even know this happened until these articles started popping up.

If one aggressive subreddit takes irresponsible action, is that fair to say "Reddit did 'X'".

Or is it more accurate to say "the subreddit /r/findthebostonbombers of the Reddit web site did 'X'"?

I would argue for the latter. Granted, the mainstream media is unlikely to make the distinction or care, but it's an important difference.

The same way we talk about the actions of a small percentage of the employees of a company as if they represent the entire company.

I do not think these are equivalent. A company is a hierarchical structure of individuals, with oversight and management relationships. Reddit is just a bunch of unaffiliated individuals talking to each other.

Actually it should have been "by 4chan and agreed by some redditors". There were many redditors who questioned whether it was the same guy or not.

> Tripathi, who was reported to have suffered from depression, went missing on March 15 – over a month before the bombings that left three people dead and 264 wounded...Laura Lague, spokeswoman for the Providence police, told the Boston Globe that Tripathi's body had been spotted in the river by a Brown university rowing coach on Tuesday and that it had been identified by dental records, suggesting a long immersion. Foul play was not a factor, she confirmed.


No, read the article. He died before the accusations.

No ... there were rational voices here trying to stop the speculation. It's amazing to me that a community that prides itself on acting logically and based on data (A/B testing, metrics-based action, continuous everything including learning), didn't apply the same rigor to the speculation around the bombings. Shouldn't we be MORE careful with people's lives than our temporary (in the vast scheme of things) business interests?

..."Blood on our hands" is a pretty bad term to use when the kid was literally dead before any of these communities knew who he was...

HN comment thread discussing Tripathi being one of the bombers.


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