As police searched the Boston area early this morning for the suspects in Monday’s bombing, online rumors began to suggest that one of the perpetrators was missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, who disappeared on March 16.
Now Reddit users (among the first to speculate about a connection) are trying to right the wrong as best as they can, setting up a page to gather information on Mr. Tripathi’s last known whereabouts.
Reddit members began connecting Mr. Tripathi to Monday’s bombings on Thursday, after users noted some similarities in the photos of the “White-Hat” suspect released by the FBI. A .gif was even made that morphed a photo of Mr. Tripathi into the photo of the suspect as a means to prove Mr. Tripathi’s guilt.
But when Reddit and Twitter users heard Mr. Tripathi’s name mentioned on a police scanner (in error), the rumor took on a life of its own. Mr. Tripathi’s name was soon trending on Twitter and was tweeted by multiple reporters and news outlets. Hours later though, the FBI determined that the “White Hat” suspect was in fact 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, and not Mr. Tripathi.
Soon after it became clear the speculation was incorrect, the moderator of the “FindBostonBombers” subreddit apologized.
I’d like to extend the deepest apologies to the family of Sunil Tripathi for any part we may have had in relaying what has turned out to be faulty information. We cannot begin to know what you’re going through and for that we are truly sorry. Several users, twitter users, and other sources had heard him identified as the suspect and believed it to be confirmed. We were mistaken.
This event shows exactly why the no personal information until confirmation rule is in place. Out of respect for Tripathi and his family, I ask that users here please remove any and all links about him. Thank you.
Reactions to the new search effort, proposed by user AndyAndrophile, were mixed, with users debating the risk of another witch hunt starting during the search. “Because reddit did such a bang up job finding the guys responsible for the bombing right,” said user devilrobotjesus, while user iFlick argued that “If there’s one thing Reddit does well, it’s disseminate information.”
We hope that Mr. Tripathi will soon be found safe and sound. If you have any information on Mr. Tripathi’s whereabouts you can call the Providence Police Department at 401-641-8691, the FBI, or 911.