Reddit puts end to subreddit trying to identify Navy Yard gunman

Reddit seems to have learnt a lesson the hard way out after the Boston bombings. The social news and entertainment website has...


Reddit seems to have learnt a lesson the hard way out after the Boston bombings. The social news and entertainment website has gone ahead and banned a subreddit that had been trying to crowdsource the identification of a shooter that opened fire at the Washington Naval Yard on Monday morning.

Merely hours after it first cropped up, the subreddit called /r/findnavyyardshooters was banned by Monday afternoon by Reddit. The gunman in the Navy Yard opened fire killing around 12 people on Monday. He was later identified as Aaron Alexis by the police.

Of course, Reddit had a good few valid reasons to ban the subreddit, the most important of which was that it violated site rules by encouraging the posting of personal information. Reddit’s Erik Martin said, “The quote from the side bar that subreddit that was banned said 'no personal information about leads unless you are really sure.' We do not allow the posting of personal information under any circumstances." In an email to TechCrunch, Martin also claimed that it was a troll subreddit.

 Reddit puts end to subreddit trying to identify Navy Yard gunman

Banned, and rightly so

 

But, Reddit has indeed learnt its lesson. In April, after the Boston bombings, Reddit’s good samaritan actions turned ugly when in an attempt to identify the bombing suspects from hazy screengrabs, some site members ended up vilifying a missing Brown University student of Indian origin, Sunil Tripathi.

The website had most believing that one of the bombers indeed was Tripathi, who was missing at the time, causing panic and hunts for him. Major media outlets that had been waiting for a name to peg on to the face lapped up Reddit’s vigilante theory. It turned out that the bombers were actually Chechen Tsarnaev brothers. Tripathi, whose name was already maligned, was eventually found dead.

In the aftermath of the online witch hunt, Reddit ended up issuing an apology to Tripathi and his family and Martin had claimed then that such crowdsourcing activities would be stopped. “We hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch-hunt. We were wrong,” he said back then. “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.”

Looks like Reddit has stuck to its promise and the police have done a fine job without needing the website members’ vigilantism.


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