While Reddit’s thousands of amateur sleuths got a lot of things right, they also got a lot of things wrong. Earlier in this article, we referred to a “Blue Robe Guy” who Redditors speculated was connected to the terrorist attack.
Like many other threads posted on the subreddit, the discussion of Blue Robe Guy was removed from the site. The subreddit’s creator, a 23-year-old professional poker player from England calling himself Oops777, told Buzzfeed’s John Herrman that the worst case scenario was “we waste our time,” but more than a dozen other potential suspects were flagged by Redditors. These posts were then taken offline in an attempt to eliminate confusion among users. With that said, Reddit users were crowdsourcing a violent attack and tentatively photo identifying suspected terrorists on a public forum accessible by anyone. As we all know, no one on the Internet ever jumps to conclusions or ever acts impulsively.
The only problem is that Reddit users weren’t the only ones jumping the gun. Mainstream media institutions were just as bad; the New York Post famously put a picture on their front page of two men they implied were suspects; the two men were not suspects and just happened to be spectators of Middle Eastern descent. CNN mistakenly claimed a suspect was in custody when there wasn’t one. Sometimes established institutions jump to the same hasty conclusions as the crowdsourced mobs of the Internet.