back to article Reddit: So very sorry for naming innocent man as Boston bomber

Condé Nast-owned community website Reddit has issued an apology for an "online witch hunt" launched by its users in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt. Reddit enthusiasts banded together in a bid to find the people responsible for the bombs, but mistakenly named missing 22-year-old student Sunil …


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  1. ShelLuser

    Call me sceptical if you will, but...

    I think they're only sorry that they failed to catch the real bombers. Because anyone could see up front where witch hunts like this could lead to; the risk of accusing and thus damaging innocent people is always a very realistic and dangerous aspect. That's why such "hunting efforts" are best stopped before they fully take off. But no...

    Shit like this keeps happening time and time again, and when the damage is done they're always "sorry" and simply carry on with their lives. Yet the people who got the worst part of the accusations will most likely continue to suffer from them for several months if not years to come. Yet that small detail more than often never finds its way into the main news because well... A few people getting threatened on a continuous basis is hardly news worthy after all. Celebrities have to deal with that shit all the time, so who cares?

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not questioning the main motivations here. But the people who started this whole ordeal really should have known better up front in my opinion.

    1. LarsG

      Naming the wrong person could have had catastrophic consequences. I hope everyone who saw the article has now been informed that he is not the fugitive........... In the gun happy US it is shoot first, then find an excuse.

      1. Marshalltown

        unmitigated baloney

        That is pure drivel. Mistaken shootings are by police officers by and large. There are a lot of guns in the US according to statistics, but only a fraction of a percent are carried either openly or concealed. If they were, "mass shootings" would be far less one sided. There've been two "vigilante" shootings in the last several decades and one of those, Bernard Goetz, was not mistaken, just illegal. According to New York law and in keeping with British views he should have let himself be mugged, injured and possibly killed. That is the moral "high road" and looks so much better than simply shooting the perp. Looking at Britain, which has one of the toughest sets of laws controlling guns in civilian hands in the western hemisphere. Astonishingly the use of guns in crimes including homicide has increased steadily since the passage of those laws.

        1. Synonymous Howard

          Re: unmitigated baloney

          "Looking at Britain ... Astonishingly the use of guns in crimes including homicide has increased steadily since the passage of those laws." - huh? Facts please?

          How about instead something which came out today....

        2. ContentsMayVary

          Re: unmitigated baloney

          >>Looking at Britain, which has one of the toughest sets of laws controlling guns in civilian hands in the western hemisphere. Astonishingly the use of guns in crimes including homicide has increased steadily since the passage of those laws.

          Oh yes? Have a look here:

          From which I quote:

          "Firearms offences have fallen by more than 40 percent in less than a decade, with the rise of “gun culture” in Britain’s inner cities apparently reversed because of improved police intelligence.

          Figures out next month are expected to confirm the long-term decline in gun crime which resulted in 39 people shot dead in 2011/12 compared with a high of 96 ten years earlier."

        3. Trustme

          Re: unmitigated baloney

          ". Astonishingly the use of guns in crimes including homicide has increased steadily since the passage of those laws"

          Plainly you don't keep up with the news as, as was announced yesterday, the UK has the fastest falling rate of violent crime in the Western Hemisphere:

          "In fact, this country has experienced the largest drop in violence rates of any European country over the last decade and become a significantly safer place to live."

    2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

      Unfortunately, in America, they really do believe that saying "sorry" is all that is required. How often have you heard the phrase "I've said I'm sorry; what more do you want?"

      In order for an apology to be truly meaningful, there needs to be an understanding of the distress caused; a genuine feeling of regret for causing this distress; and a desire to never cause the same distress again in the future. Most apologies fail at least 2 out of 3 of these points (I'm looking at you public transport).

      1. g e

        Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

        And preferably a memorable (for the accuser) act of contrition to help remind them not to be such an assclown next time the opportunity presents itself.

        Like posting their photo publicly saying 'I am a stupid asshole torch-bearing pitchfork-waving dickhead and I deserve your derision' at the very minimum.

      2. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

        In America, celebrity 'I'm sorry's are usually followed by 'God has forgiven me, so why can't you?'

        1. Anonymous IV

          Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

          So what happened to "where there's blame, there's a claim"?

          Get a move on, you lawyers - there's an ambulance that needs chasing!

          1. Danny 14 Silver badge

            Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

            the fact that the accused was posted missing might be a clue as to why there havent been any lawyers.

        2. Andrew Moore Silver badge

          Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

          >In America, celebrity 'I'm sorry's are usually followed by 'God has forgiven me, so why can't you?'

          The correct reply to this is "No, I haven't"

      3. peyton?

        Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

        'In America, saying "sorry" is all that is required' ??

        Spend some time over here; I'm pretty sure you'll find that in America, settling out of court is all that is required.

      4. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

        Are you saying you *want* a lawsuit starting? Because, you know, there's this other canard tossed about Americans - that they sue at the drop of a hat.

        Or would you rather no apology at all was forthcoming, like when that nice Mr Murdoch splashed two innocent faces on the front page of the New York Post and identified them incorrectly as "the bombers"?

        Or are you looking for the sort of true heartfelt contriteness felt over the voicemail hacking nonsense that was all over the UK press last year? Yes I'm being ironic there. The only people feeling at all sorry there were the ones about to be slung in chokey.

        You obviously feel that the people behind the Reddit cock-up do not feel any sort of genuine contriteness over their reprehensible stuff-up. Do you have a source for that suspicion or are you working to the same game-plan they were: state the "facts" first then be ready to back away if you can't get an independent source to confirm?

        1. Gav

          Re: Call me sceptical if you will, but...

          Reddit failed because anyone with half a brain knew where this would end up. The same way they have done for centuries. That's why they call them "witch hunts". They knew, but they did nothing to stop it. Probably because it was exciting and good for the hit counts.

          That's why people may question the sincerity of their apology.

          And as for lawsuits; give 'em time. They will come.

      5. Marshalltown


        Astonishing how little is known about America. "Sorry" in the context of the story is simply short hand for "please don't sue me." The apology was probably even delivered by a lawyer.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No more than an apology. ...?

      "no more than an apology. "

      If this was the BBC someone would've had to fall on their sword! Even for the media, this was brutally reckless and irresponsible. Someone should be forced to resign. At the very least name and shame those responsible at Reddit... Whose to say a vigilante minded Bostonian gun owner wouldn't have shot or wounded innocent people with over-enthusiasm, especially if the man-hunt had gone on and on...

  2. Steve Button

    The wisdom of the crowd!

    Something about least common denominator methinks.

    1. Asylum Sam

      Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

      and isn't that the way everything is going, , simplify it all down to the slug in the. street

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

      The overall intelligence of any group of people is inversely proportional to the number of members in that group.


      1. Ralph B

        Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

        > The overall intelligence of any group of people is inversely proportional to the number of members in that group.

        Except that is demonstrably not true.

        1. Ted Treen

          @Ralph B - Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

          "...Except that is demonstrably not true..."

          Then how do you account for Blair's general election wins?

          or people STILL voting for Balls, Harman...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

          "Except that is demonstrably not true."

          Well, shitpeadia would say that, wouldn't it?

        3. Stuart Castle

          Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

          I cite Twitter (or at least most of the bits I have seen) as evidence it is true.

      2. Atonnis

        Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

        I believe the classic statement is:

        The overall intelligence of any mob is the sum of their IQs divided by the number of people in the mob.

        1. Darryl

          Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

          In the immortal words of

          "None of us is as dumb as all of us"

    3. Caesarius

      Re: The wisdom of the crowd!

      least common denominator

      Whereas I sympathise that LCD is poetically correct, I feel the need to point out on a techie forum that HCF is mathematically what you probably had in mind. Using HCF would force people to think about what you wrote, but surely that's the idea here.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure there's lots of people that would like an apology for the weird shit Violentacrez (Michael Brutsch) did/encouraged as well.

    1. Turtle

      And bear in mind that...

      And bear in mind that one of Reddit's co-founders was, amusingly, Aaron Swartz, the "supporter of noble causes' as one particularly clueless commenter called him. Irony enthusiasts and fanciers will like this a lot!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well if they are that sorry...

    ...I'm sure they'll be happily supplying the details of the users and helping the family with the libel / slander case....

    or even better, help find the missing person.

    still witch hunts are much more fun, "now lets go get that bloke, I hear he's a pedo" (sic).

  5. volsano

    A prediction.....

    That the Reddit hive mind has not learned any lessons.

    During the next great witch hunt, they'll be claiming it's different this time because they are using iCrowd technology (or some such heat of the moment techno drivel) to confirm their biases.

    Confusing the wisdom of crowds with the madness of mobs is a common online mistake.

  6. jonathan1

    This reminds of the time when a pediatrician was incorrectly named as peodophile by the press and an angry mob bricked and tried to set fire to his home.

    People stop using reason when they form groups, like the IQ drops several points for each additional angry mob member.

    Very sad

    1. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge


      This tale about a mob firebombin a pediatricians house comes up an awful lot and a trawl round the internet reveals many different variants of the tales, with the details changing depending on the source. Despite Snopes, oddly, not having anything on this, my own research would suggest that it's something of an urban myth that has grown around the one and only recorded incident wherein a doctor had the word "pedo" spray painted on her garden wall, probably by some youths aged 12-17. There is no recorded incident of an angry mob (with or without pitchforks) or any fire-bombing.

      Here's a link to the best investigation of the incident I could find and, as a bonus, it even carries a mention of El Reg!

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: @Johnathan1

        I doubt it is a coincidence that Private Eye ran a cartoon depicting an angry mob outside a peadiatrician's premises at the height of the peado witch-hunts, about three weeks before that story went public.

      2. jonathan1

        Re: @Jonathan1


        I stand corrected said the man in the Orthopedic Shoes.

        But my version of events sounds so much more sensationalist than the actual event....

      3. Marshalltown

        Urban myths

        The difference between a reasonably factual account and an urban myth is that the myth is characteristically "pimped" out to make a better story and to illustrate the teller's opinion of whoever the subject of the cautionary tale was. At the same time, I have seen a story labeled an "urban myth" where the events as told were reasonably close to something I personally experienced while doing a stint at a hell desk. Since I know for certain that the story was not about my own experience, it follows that the "myth" mirrors parallel events or extrapolations from common knowledge to expectable outcomes. I really did take a call from a woman who had mistakenly placed the mouse from her shiny, brand new computer on the floor in the expectation that she would operate it like the foot control of a sewing machine. It took a confused 30 to 40 seconds to figure out what her problem was and have her move the mouse to a more appropriate position.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Just goes to show: the internet is a GOOD thing

    Here we have a bunch of couch-surfers, complete with their biases, assumptions and prejudices fingering the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons. Luckily for him, they were only sitting at home thinking they were getting involved in something real. If this had been a pre-internet lynch-mob there could well have been a hanging. Instead the pitchforks and nooses of Ye Olde West (and East) were not in evidence and the target of this uninformed hysteria is still with us.

    However I bet his lawyers are rubbing their hands with glee.

  8. Mako

    To paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones...

    ...from Men in Black:

    "A person is smart. People are stupid, panicky idiots and you know it."

  9. RISC OS
    Thumb Down

    Reddit couch potatoes at home should maybe get of the asses

    and help... instead of buying pizza für police officers. I'm not sure the first thing on the mind of police officers looking for someone who killed an 8yr old kid and a fellow police officer is not whether they should buy some stuffed crust for their lunch or not.

    Also looking at the posts, I find it dubious that any police officer would find reading areddit post easy to follow or useful to do... people were complimenting each other on their hair for crying out loud when they ID themselves in the photos.

  10. KitD


    Missing from the article is that while some Redditors were wrongly accusing an innocent man, others were scouring photos from the incident and provided the FBI with far better photo evidence than they had from CCTV.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: OTOH

      "Redditors". I hate that, as it's obviously a play on "editors" and thus implies some sort of control or checking of what is published.

      I propose "Reddtophacks" as a more accurate alternative, as that would correctly suggest that anything written is very likely to be complete bullshit.

      1. Ralph B

        Re: OTOH

        > I propose "Reddtophacks"

        It should be "Redditards", Shirley?

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: OTOH

      Unfortunately that really doesn't offset the damage done. If that were the case there wouldn't still be a raging debate over that resort the U.S. govt built in Cuba.

  11. kring

    I just read..

    ..they may have found him dead :(

    "Police found the body of a man in the Providence River and they think it is 'very possible' that it is missing student Sunil Tripathi who was wrongly accused of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

    Tripathi, 22, was a Brown University student and has been missing since the middle of March.

    Authorities will not know for sure if it is the missing student until Wednesday, but police lieutenant Joseph Donnelly told The Boston Globe that 'it's very, very possible' that it is Tripathi."

    1. El Presidente

      Re: I just read..

      Very sad if true but aren't you doing what Reddit did? Speculating?

      Remember: Two trusted sources or it didn't happen. Ask Reuters :)

  12. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Sorry? Nah

    They just don't want to be sued. (and I sincerely hope they are) Just another place people can gather to share collective ignorance.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vigilante justice (incitement, carrying out, etc.) should come with very harsh jail sentences.

    It ruins peoples lives and, well, ever heard of the Snowtown murders?

    1. Thomas 4


      ...but sadly unlikely. No-one has ever put an entire lynch mob on trial before, which is a shame because it really needs to be done sometimes. =/

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    If you love this...

    Then you're going to love the story about the Senator who accused (maybe even framed) what now appears to be the wrong man for the Ricin mailings.

    Just do a news search.

  15. Daniel B.

    New Media

    Yet another case where the "new media" got it wrong. The problem this time is that they actually took their pitchforks out.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing was learned

    No one on reddit is sorry no will they have learned a lesson. They've already had repeated issues with dozing and harassment. They're largely a bunch of suburban children meaning they'll be over entitled little morons who think they're god's gift to humanity.

    People need to put more pressure on Conde Nast and reddit over this if its true that guy is now dead. I could almost buy it if it were a site set up by a bunch of children but it's not. It's a corporate owned for-profit site whose irresponsibility possibly lead to a death.

    I hope his parents take them to the cleaners for this.

    1. pixl97

      Re: Nothing was learned

      This is about the stupidest shit I've heard today.

      Next you're going to tell me aManfromMARS is the voice of The Register. Or, you can accept the fact that like any site that doesn't pre-moderate comments, people can say anything they want. Some people will learn, other people won't give a fuck and post anything they want anonymously. Some of it will get removed quickly, other times it's widely viewed.

      Sunil was likely dead way before the bombings in Boston, he's been missing for months. Not dick shit to do with anything later posted on the internet.

      What's really funny is you post as AC, in the world you seem to desire that wouldn't be allowed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing was learned

        His family didn't see him since March. That doesn't make him missing. Just like the friends and family I don't see for months aren't missing.

  17. Florida1920 Silver badge

    "First we fix the blame, then we fix the problem." Except the problem is rarely addressed because no one wants to admit it even exists. American foreign policy will only become even more militaristic as a result, and right-wingers will use Boston as an excuse to further their goal of creating a police state at home. The American nation was created through expropriation and genocide, and our history has become so normalized, most Americans see them as charitable endeavors. Maybe by mid-century, when the majority will be people whose ancestors were victims of "Manifest Destiny," the country will realize who really was to blame for these sporadic acts of payback.

  18. Irk

    Blame vigilante justice if you want, but when a nation's authorities repeat "if you see something, say something" over and over again, and police offices express hopes that people from the crowd will come forward with photo/video evidence from their phones, how can this result be unexpected? The US's authorities encourage this sort of behavior and egg citizens to snoop on each other 24/7. Reddit only did what any "good Americans" would.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sad thing is...

    ...if the body that was announced that was found does turn out to be the missing man in question, and met foul play (E.g. was murdered because of Reddit), then that makes them no different from those who carried out the Boston Bombing in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The sad thing is...

      Correction: That makes the person who committed the murder no different then the Boston Bomber.

  20. The Alpha Klutz

    everyone who took part in this

    will find themselves in jail.

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