Reddit Issues Apology to Wrongly Accused

Tue 23 April 2013 17:15, Seema Sanghavi

After any tragedy, I believe it is quite normal for people to look for answers and try to find those responsible. However, sometimes innocent people are falsely accused. Speculation on social media last week over who was responsible for the bombing at the Boston Marathon produced its own set of falsely accused. Social network Reddit was fiercely criticized for its "Findthebostonbombers" thread that pinpointed specific people standing near the scene as suspects. The company has now issued a public apology to those who were wrongfully accused.

Reddit Issues Apology to Wrongly Accused

After a shameful witch hunt that smeared the reputations of some people guilty of nothing more than attending the Boston Marathon, Reddit has done the right thing and apologized. On Monday, Erik Martin, general manager of the social media website, apologized for the fiasco in which Reddit's amateur sleuths set out to find who was responsible for the marathon bombing. During the whole ordeal, the faces of innocent people were circled in photos of the marathon crowd, pinpointing them as suspects. These allegations were often based on nothing more that the fact that they were wearing a backpack.

Reddit2

One person in particular who had their reputation smeared was missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi. Tripathi has been missing since last month. According to the Huffington Post, the ordeal with Tripathi began when a user on Reddit said she thought she spotted the missing student in the surveillance footage from the scene of the bombing. Other Reddit users decided that the young man indeed matched the photos released by the FBI. Tripathi's name eventually popped up on Twitter and from then on, there was no stopping the momentum of speculation that he was "Suspect 2." The family, already dealing with the ordeal of losing their son, had to suspend the Facebook page they created to find him because of all the negative comments they received on the page.

Reddit%203

In the company’s apology post, Martin paid special attention to the apology to Sunil Tripathi and his family. As reported on USAToday.com, Martin continued by stating that he hoped that the event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's return home. The post also highlighted that although it started with noble intentions, this activity on Reddit fuelled online hunts which caused very negative consequences for innocent people. The tragedy in Boston created a huge amount of traffic on Reddit, peaking at about 272,000 users according to Google Analytics.

Although in many circumstances, the power of social media can help in times of tragedy, social media users must be careful on what they put out for the rest of the world to see. This is a sad example of how one person’s thoughtless comment can cause a whirlwind and have a massive effect. Although I think this is something that has a good chance of happening when we have platforms were anyone can share their views to a wide audience, it was a noble effort by Reddit to take ownership and offer an apology. What are your thoughts on this?

Sources:

  • www.huffingtonpost.com
  • www.bbc.co.uk
  • www.usatoday.com

Images:

  • http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/reddit-wants-the-boston-bombers-blood
  • http://gawker.com/5994892/your-guide-to-the-boston-marathon-bombing-amateur-internet-crowd+sleuthing
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/boston-marathon-investigation-reddit-detectives_n_3101126.html

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