How Reddit and Twitter got it wrong and made life worse for a missing kid’s family

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A missing Brown student was unfortunately smeared last night in the confusion/excitement/torrent of news flowing on Twitter. At about 2:45 AM this Tweet (deleted in the last 30 minutes, or so) started getting RT'd by people I follow and it moved very quickly from there up to media members RT'ing it as well. The person who posted it said they were sharing a Reddit transcript of the Boston Police scanner broadcast. The Reddit back patting from both Reddit users and new-media members came quickly because Reddit had at some point earlier speculated on the connection to the bombers and the missing Brown student. Much criticism had been heaped on their efforts to identify bombers all week, so it'd be understandable for them to want to gloat.

Except they got it wrong. I was listening to the scanner when they mentioned the first guy's name on the BPD scanner, and did not hear the second name on the scanner at all. It wasn't said. 50K other people were listening to the scanner at the time, so maybe others can corroborate this. And it turns out the guy mentioned as suspect #1 didn't have anything to do with the bombing and was probably related to another issue BPD was dealing with last night. The guy listed as suspect #2 in the above Tweet is the missing Brown student, and as we know now, was not considered a suspect.

Last night was the first time I've heard of a police scanner driving the "facts' of a major news story for several hours, and if you listened, you now know why. There were several announcements made over the scanner that turned out to be part of the understandable confusion of a massive police chase. I went to sleep right after hearing about officers being directed to a specific area for a supposed foot chase between Newton police officers and the suspect. One of the last messages I heard broadcast was, "Uh, just talked to Newton police. There was no foot chase."

Some other thoughts:
-General term "Reddit users" tossed around a couple times in this post which obviously lumps them all together. Too tired from staying up most of the night to write more artfully, but I know there's no way to describe all Reddit users as one.
-Not sure whether the scanner transcript on Reddit mentioned the missing student or if the Tweeter above just added it in to a Tweet.
-I'm not usually a fan of Tweets being deleted, but the Tweeter above did the right thing by deleting his Tweet. Before it got deleted, I noticed the RT number going down, so people were obviously trying to disassociate themselves from this message.

4 thoughts on “How Reddit and Twitter got it wrong and made life worse for a missing kid’s family

  1. Jay

    I wish the self-appointed sleuths would at least make an effort to learn a bit about the world before they shared their “wisdom” with others. To wit, Sunil Tripathi is an unambiguously Hindu name. “Tri” is 3 and Path is text in Sanskrit. The idea that a Hindu would suddenly decide to make a bomb to blow up strangers is a bit far fetched to anyone who understands anything about the world. Of course, to the ignorant foreign sounding names are all the same.

  2. Joney

    “I wish the self-appointed sleuths would at least make an effort to learn a bit about the world before they shared their “wisdom” with others.”…. FYI, any and all ism’s can and do have fundamentalist violence associated with them and their names. Hinduism is no exception. Perhaps before espousing the ignorance of others and the righteousness of our own, we take a moment to reflect on ourselves.

  3. Ree

    Joney, think you must have a screw loose. Agreed all “isms” have fundamental elements, but fundamental elements does not equate to bombings and terrorism. When was the last time someone planted a bomb in the name of Hinduism? Perhaps before espousing your righteous secular philosophies, take a moment to actually do some research.

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