Reddit apologises for online Boston 'witch hunt'

A girl walks amid chalk messages written by passerbys about the Boston Marathon bombing The aftermath of the Boston bombings led to huge speculation on Reddit

Related Stories

Social news site Reddit has issued a public apology for its coverage of the Boston bombings.

Its Find Boston Bombers thread - known as a subreddit - wrongly named several people as suspects.

The misidentified included 17-year-old Salah Barhoun and missing 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi.

Reddit has admitted that it helped to fuel "online witch hunts". The debacle has fuelled debate about how far such speculation should go in future.

"We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations," the apology read.

"Though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on Reddit fuelled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiralled into very negative consequences for innocent parties."

It went on to apologise to the family of Mr Tripathi.

The family had to suspend the Facebook page they had created to find him because of the amount of negative comments they received. Mr Tripathi's name trended on Twitter and numerous news sites.

"We were very worried about Sunil and about each other because of how fast completely unsubstantiated claims were spreading," his sister Sangeeta Tripathi told the BBC World Service.

"Our entire neighbourhood and our house were surrounded by media trucks. On my personal cellphone I got 72 phone calls between 3am and 4.30 in the morning.

"We just really hope that something like what happened to our family - and it's happened to a few other people in the same media frenzy around Boston - doesn't keep happening and that we are conscious of how powerful some of our platforms are."

The tragedy in Boston created a huge amount of traffic on Reddit, peaking at about 272,000 users, according to Google Analytics.

As well as attempting to solve the mystery of who the suspects were, Redditors - as contributors to the site are known - also organised housing for people stranded in Boston, sent pizza deliveries to police and hospitals, and organised "dog therapy" in local parks for traumatised residents.

The apology concludes: "After this week, which showed the best and worst of Reddit's potential, we hope that Boston will also be where Reddit learns to be sensitive of its own power."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Technology stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Prostitute in red light district in Seoul, South KoreaSex for soldiers

    How Korea helped prostitutes work near US military bases


  • LuckyDumped

    The rubbish collector left on the scrap heap as his city cleans up


  • Jamal Bryant'Buying black'

    Ferguson campaign targets Black Friday


  • Walmart employees and supporters block off a major intersection near the Walton Family Foundation to stage a protest calling for $15 an hour and consistent full-time work in downtown Washington October 16, 2014. Black mark

    Wal-Mart workers revolt against the annual shopping bonanza


BBC Future

Manmade islands require redrawn maps (Getty Images)

The last unmapped places

Uncharted regions closer than you think Read more...

Programmes

  • All-inclusive holidaysThe Travel Show Watch

    With all-inclusive holidays seeing a resurgence are local trades missing out to big resorts?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.