Internet sleuths trying to find Boston bomber - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Internet sleuths try to find Boston bomber, but could create false suspects

Posted: Updated:
The photos are freely available on Flickr. (Source: hahatango/Flickr) The photos are freely available on Flickr. (Source: hahatango/Flickr)
Crowd shots taken before the blast are being pored over by people online. (Source: hahatango/Flickr) Crowd shots taken before the blast are being pored over by people online. (Source: hahatango/Flickr)

(RNN) - Amateur sleuths on Reddit, the popular social news site, are trying to find the suspects behind the Boston bombing by putting together clues from photos and videos taken at the time of the bombing. Whether they are helping or hurting remains to be seen, as too much amateur speculation could misidentify innocent people as suspects.

Reddit has an entire section, known as a subreddit, devoted to finding the Boston bomber. Users of the site have posted hundreds of links to images, videos, and text that speculates about who caused the deadly bombing.

A typical thread consists of a picture with a poster's theory as to how somebody in the photo might be a suspect, with several other commenters adding their thoughts and opinions. Any photos with people wearing or carrying backpacks have caught the attention of Redditors, as users of the site are known. They have identified several so-called "suspects," including a white man in a blue sweater carrying a black backpack and two young men of indeterminate race wearing black backpacks.

Users have submitted photos that analyze the backpacks being held by the men and compare them to an FBI photo of the backpack that was used in one of the bombings.

And one user who claimed to have a similar backpack to the one allegedly used in the bombing posted comparison pictures that showed how his bag appeared to he heavy.

Comments about the photos are full of speculation, amateur psychology, and personal biases. Regarding the man in the blue sweater who has become known as "Blue Robe Guy," one redditor said, "He looks overtly happy in one of the photos. Not exactly the expression I would expect from this sort of criminal."

"If he's a psychopath that is doing this for pleasure, why would it be hard to imagine him being happy?" another responded.

Although the input of potentially millions of people poring over photos and putting together clues could prove useful, it also has the elements of a high-tech witch hunt. And there are people who see this as a dangerous activity that could lead to false accusations.

Gawker noted that several people singled out as suspects in the photographs were dark-skinned and were being scrutinized for little more than having dark skin and being near the bomb blast while wearing a backpack.

But the redditors visiting the bomb investigation subreddit are aware of the dangers of creating false suspects. The top-rated post warned other users that they could be creating the next Richard Jewell, the man falsely accused of setting off a bomb during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but who had actually saved several lives.

"This sub[reddit] is dedicated to pointing to random people in a crowd photograph and declaring your suspicions. You're starting the trial-by-public aspect," the poster warned, adding: "Who knows? You may get lucky and your pet suspect turns out to be the bomber. But I've seen at least 10 people singled out, and not all of you are correct."

"Jewell was put through hell because of crowd mentality rushing to justice," another poster said. "The last thing we need now is a vigilante mob thinking it got the right guy and convincing law enforcement it can stop investigating."

There has already been one false suspect named as a result of online speculation, but it wasn't the fault of Reddit. Jay Thomas, a radio talk show host, said on his program Monday that a young man named Eric Twardzik was arrested in connection with the bombing.

Twardzik was not arrested. He had only taken a picture of somebody being arrested and posted it on Twitter

Twardzik wrote an open letter to Thomas admonishing the talk show host.

Although internet sleuthing could be harmful, it must be noted that the identity of Lu Lingzi, the third victim of the bombing that was named, was found out by users of Reddit and Twitter the day before the name was officially released by Boston University.

Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • Boston Marathon BombingMore>>

  • MIT honors officer slain after bombs went off

    MIT honors officer slain after bombs went off

    Friday, April 18 2014 1:12 PM EDT2014-04-18 17:12:03 GMT
    Relatives of the police officer authorities say was killed by the Boston bombing suspects are remembering him a year later.
    Like many other youngsters, Sean Collier wanted to be a police officer. Unlike most, he brought that dream to life - and then died doing it, becoming a central character in the gripping hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing...
  • Little government response to bombing a year later

    Little government response to bombing a year later

    A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in response to the attack, a dramatic departure from previous acts of terrorism...
    A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in response to the attack, a dramatic departure from previous acts of terrorism that...
  • Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    Boston Marathon organizers confident of safe race

    Police stepped up patrols near the Boston Marathon finish line after a masked man walked in the street with a rice cooker in his backpack only hours after the city marked the anniversary of last year's deadly...
    The arrest of a man with a rice cooker in his backpack near the Boston Marathon finish line led police to step up patrols Wednesday, while organizers sought to assure the city and runners of a safe race next week.
Powered by WorldNow

310 Broadway
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701

FCC Public File
publicfile@kfvs12.com
573-335-1212
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and KFVS12. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.