The social media site Reddit has issued an apology to the family of missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi after several of the site’s users declared late last week that Tripathi was responsible for the Boston Marathon attacks.
As we noted Friday, the accusation that Tripathi was involved in last week’s bombing was quickly picked up by hundreds of Twitter users — including several social media journalists. In a statement posted yesterday on Reddit’s official blog, the site’s general manager wrote the following:
…[T]hough started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Tripathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil’s quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Tripathi family and their search.
Tripathi’s sister Sangeeta spoke to Mother Jones about how painful the false accusations were to the family, telling reporter Asawin Suebsaeng:
“The hardest part of this was how far from any actual evidence there actually was, and how quickly and how painfully this traveled…We find it incredibly unfortunate that media outlets were so quick to jump without checking with authorities, but we hope they use the same energy and intensity they showed in the past 24 hours to really help us find Sunil.”
It will be interesting to see if other media outlets follow suit and also offer their regrets and apologies to the Tripathi family. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the entire episode was the fact that Boston Police never said Tripathi’s name over the scanner, but that prominent journalists insisted they did anyway. As The Atlantic reports, other members of the media that tweeted Sunil Tripathi’s name included Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski (who later wrote this self-serving article), Politico’s Dylan Byers and Digg’s Ross Newman. (Suebsaeng updated his report with a note that The Daily Beast’s Brian Ries, who also tweeted that Tripathi was the suspect, requested the family’s contact info in order to apologize after reading the Mother Jones piece.)