CSI Internet

Dave Lee at BBC News writes about the Internet hive mind’s failed attempt at piecing together who may have been the suspects for the Boston bombings:

Internet users tried for days to piece together clues about the culprits of the Boston bombings. The result? They got it wrong – and left innocent people fearing for their safety. Many are now asking: should “crowd-sourced investigations” be stopped?

The hive mind culture of sites like Reddit and 4chan have gotten things wrong before. Back in 2011, Reddit users were convinced that a girl who posted that she was shaving her head for charity and looking for donations was a fraud. Well, she wasn’t. But that wasn’t before thousands of users turned on her, to the point her safety was threatened.

That’s bad enough, but imagine that you’re a completely innocent bystander in what was a terrible tragedy and part of the Internet thinks you were responsible for it.

The collective nature of users when something like this happened turns into a mob mentality which is why the phrase “put your pitchforks down” can be found now and again when they’ve got it wrong.

I’m sure all the users had the very best of intentions but because of this mob mentality, all it takes is for someone to say “he looks suspicious” and then for someone else to agree and it snowballs into something much bigger.