Reddit, the social networking site, has apologized — privately — to the family of a missing Brown University student for the role its site took in connecting him to last Monday’s Boston Marathon attack.
The family of Sunil Tripathi had to suspend their “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” Facebook page after it was filled with hate messages from people after Reddit users claimed they’d heard Tripathi’s name on Boston police radio frequencies in connection to the bombing investigation.
Tripathi disappeared from his home in Providence, RI, in March, and hasn’t been heard from since.
Today, a blog post from Reddit apologized for the pain it caused.
However, though 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 Triphathi, 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 Triphathi family and their search.
A few years ago, reddit enacted a policy to not allow personal information on the site. This was because “let’s find out who this is” events frequently result in witch hunts, often incorrectly identifying innocent suspects and disrupting or ruining their lives. We hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong. The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the types of vindictive internet witch hunts our no-personal-information rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different.
Meanwhile, people around the country are showing love to the Triphathi family through a series of photos under the theme of “lend a hand” to help find him.