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Reddit users illustration

A legion of armchair warriors pulled together to provide a detailed account of all the information available on last week’s horrific bombings during the Boston Marathon, but not all of that effort turned out to be good.

Case in point: community news sharing site Reddit, whose users dedicated several hours during the incident to compile information into several minute-by-minute updates to the event. Some of the comment threads within those updates spawned their own theories about who the bombers were and how best to deal with them.

Today, Reddit’s community manager, Erik Martin, took to the company’s blog to admit its part in spreading misinformation and offered up an apology for the unintended consequences:


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“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.

To put the blame solely on Reddit would be entirely unfair, as plenty of other community sites (namely 4chan) and social networks contributed to misinformation that may have started witch hunts. Even CNN is guilty of reporting its own slew of wrong information about the matter. Still, it’s refreshing to see that Reddit is being proactive about the incident, as it’s been many times in the past. The site frowns on the sharing of personal information and has instructed moderators to remove and block anyone who disregards this.

“This crisis has reminded all of us of the fragility of people’s lives and the importance of our communities, online as well as offline,” Martin wrote in the post. “These communities and lives are now interconnected in an unprecedented way. Especially when the stakes are high we must strive to show good judgement and solidarity.”

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