As you may recall, in April, Reddit “sleuthers” banded together to try to piece together what happened at the Boston bombings using news reports and police statements. The bombings killed 3 people and injured more than 260 others. What resulted was a sharing of the photos of so-called “suspects”. Theories speculated that Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student, who was missing at the time, was the bomber. Tripathi’s family understandably was shocked and outraged at the insensitive guilt trip that was being placed upon their Facebook page about him missing. People who just believe whatever they read or hear posted nasty and ugly comments on the awareness page. It was so bad that the family pulled the page offline.
Tripathi was tragically not found alive. His body was discovered in Rhode Island’s Providence River. No cause of death has been publicly disclosed. Other Reddit users focused on two young men with “heavy-looking” bags. The New York Post, who apparently finds their stories through speculation online, put the photo on their front page speculating that the “Bag Men” were who the Feds were looking for in connection with the bombing. The “bag men” were in fact, perhaps not surprisingly, innocent. One of them said that he was afraid to leave his house during the period of accusations.
Reddit said that they “hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt”, but it did. Reddit then apologized to the three people who were falsely accused and tarnished online. This time, Reddit, wasn’t going to let that happen, at least not this soon after the first time.
On Monday, they shut down a section of their site dedicated to “tracking down” the Washington Navy Yard shooter. There had been inaccurate news reports, which isn’t uncommon for live reporting, about the number of shooters on the loose. “FindNavyShooters”, a “subreddit” or specialized community, was banned.
“We banned it because it violated site rules by encouraging the posting of personal information,” Reddit general manager Erik Martin said in a prepared statement. “We don’t allow the posting of personal information…”
The subreddit was created when media reports said that the authorities were seeking suspects at large. There was confusion early on in the live reports on how many shooters were involved and whether they left the area. The investigation has now shown that there was only one shooter, but at one point the media had reported at least three shooters. The shooter was identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, and he was the sole gunman. He was killed in a shootout with security at the facility, so there was no need to “track down” any shooters.
Another “subreddit”, “Active Shooter Washington Navy Yard”, was allowed to continue. Users posted links to news sources, information from police, and other officially released information in an effort to inform people about the incident.
Before the page was banned, a screenshot showed that one user wrote, “Yes, nothing bad is going to come of this, surely. Are they really going to let this s*** happen twice?” in reference to the false allegations during the Boston bombing investigation.