The FBI seemed to take aim at internet investigators from Reddit and 4chan for releasing pictures of Boston bombing suspects that turned out to be incorrect.
On Thursday the bureau released photographs and video footage of the two men suspected of planting the pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston marathon. The bombs exploded almost simultaneously on Monday afternoon, killing three people and leaving more than 170 injured.
The bombing sent internet sleuths at the image- and link-sharing sites Reddit and 4chan into a frenzy, as users analyzed photographs and decided on suspects.
At its announcement, the FBI took clear aim at the work of outside investigators.
“Other photos should not be deemed credible,” said FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers.
Mashable writer Alex Fitzpatrick said these words were effectively aimed at Reddit and 4chan, which led the way in investigating the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
An entire message board appeared on Reddit dedicated to finding the suspects, /r/findbostonbombers, with users analyzing crowds shots and images of the bomb materials released from the FBI. The problem was that many of the conclusions — just like shoot-from-the-hip reporting from CNN and the New York Post — were flat out wrong.
The misidentification led to vigilantism, as one of the “suspects” identified on Reddit and 4chan and featured on the cover of the New York Post was harassed.
Many users took note of the rampant errors.
“LOL, everyone was 100% wrong,” wrote one Reddit user before deleting the comment.
Others expressed sympathy for those misidentified as bombing suspects, including an older man who was dubbed “blue robe guy” for wearing a fleece that resembled a robe.
Since the FBI announcement, moderators of r/findbostonbombers noted that “only photographs that are allowed to be posted in this subreddit are images that may contain the FBI’s two suspects.” While Reddit cracked down on the speculation on Boston bombing suspect photos, 4chan also appeared to scale back, though the site has much looser moderation.