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Reddit halts amateur sleuths from speculation on Navy Yard shooter

September 17, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc
  • Top military officials attend a wreath laying Tuesday at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington n the wake of the Navy Yard shooting Monday. The popular website Reddit banned chats on its site to locate the gunman during the rampage.
Top military officials attend a wreath laying Tuesday at the U.S. Navy Memorial… (Arif Patani / U.S. Navy )

Amid the intense law enforcement search for the Navy Yard shooting suspect Monday, social media site Reddit halted attempts by amateur sleuths on its site to locate the gunman.

Within hours after the first shots were fired, a subreddit called “findnavyyardshooters” had already cropped up – and was subsequently banned – on the website.

Reddit General Manager Erik Martin said in a statement to The Times that the site banned the forum because it violated its rules regarding the posting of personal information.

A statement made on the forum had warned “No personal information about leads unless you are really sure,” Martin said. “We do not allow the posting of personal information under any circumstances."

WHO THEY WERE: Navy Yard shooting victims

Reddit and other social media sites became epicenters for fast-moving, relentless speculation surrounding the identity of the Boston marathon bombers in April. On Reddit a forum titled “Findthebostonbombers” quickly devolved into what the site later called “online witch hunts.”

Some members of the site mistakenly pointed to several innocent people, including Brown University student Sunil Tripathi as one of the bombers. Tripathi, 22, was on leave from Brown and had disappeared in March, before the April  bombing. His body was found in late April in water near Providence, R.I.

Martin posted an apology on the site over the Tripathi posts and other bomber comments, saying the episode “showed the best and worst of Reddit’s potential… 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."

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

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