Reddit, Twitter & Sunil Tripathi


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A case study demonstrating the need for methods of verification for online news sharing communities.

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  • CNN Timeline:
  • Source:
  • Sources: Pew Internet & American Life Project, first reddit survey July 2013; Reddit, a beginner’s guide:
  • Reddit, Twitter & Sunil Tripathi

    1. 1. Reddit, Twitter & Sunil Tripathi Sources: Crowd-Sourcing A Smear, by Jay Caspian King, New York Times Magazine; Pew Internet & American Life Project,; Reddit, a beginner’s guide: t-for-beginners/
    2. 2. The timeline • Sunil Tripathi, a Boston University student suffering from depression,has been missing since March. His family is working with the FBI to find him. They have set up a Facebook page called “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi.” • April 15: Two bombs go off at the Boston Marathon at 2:49 p.m. eastern, killing four people including an 8- year-old boy. • April 18, 5 p.m.: The FBI releases grainy photographs of two suspects.
    3. 3. FBI releases this photo
    4. 4. Tripathi + Tsarnaev = ? • Within minutes, a Reddit user posted side-by- side pictures comparing Sunil’s appearance with that of DzhokharTsarnaev, the man later identified one of the bombers. The user also speculates about the reasons forTripathi’sdisappearance. • By 8 p.m., angry messages begin to appear on the Facebook page.
    5. 5. Side-by-side
    6. 6. Gathering steam… • At 8:15 p.m., Ravi Tripathi, Sunil’s older brother, gets a call from an ABC News reporter in New York. She asks if Sunil had been seen in Boston and if Ravi had seen the F.B.I. photos of Suspect No. 2. • Threatening Facebookmessages increase, so the family checked in with their F.B.I contact in Providence. He assured them that no one believed Sunil was Suspect No. 2.
    7. 7. Suspect No. 2: Tripathi? Tsarnaev?
    8. 8. Tweeters jump in • At about 11 p.m., the family closes the Facebook page so that no more messages could come in. • Sasha Stone, who runs an inside-Hollywood web site called Awards Daily, tweets at 10:56 p.m., “I’m sure by now the @fbipressoffice is looking into this dude,” with a link to theTripathi family’s Facebookpage.
    9. 9. Journalists, etc., jump in • Seven seconds later, she tweets: “Seconds after I sent that tweet the page is gone off Facebook. If you can cache it…” • Erik Malinowski, a senior sportswriter at BuzzFeed, tweets: “FYI: A Facebook group dedicated to finding Sunil Tripathi, the missing Brown student, was deleted this evening.”
    10. 10. Speculation as fact • Hilton and roughly 300 others retweet the Malinowski post. Hilton has more than six million followers. • Twitter explodes with speculation that Sunil must be Suspect No. 2. Otherwise, why would the family have taken the FB page down? • At 2:43 a.m., a Twitter user named Greg Hughes, jumps in.
    11. 11. No facts at all • Hughes, a self-appointed “reporter,” tweets: “BPD scanner has identified the names. Suspect 1: Mike Mulugeta Suspect 2: Sunil Tripathi.” • Seven minutes later, Kevin Galliford, a journalist for a TV station in Hartfort, Conn., tweets the same incorrect information. In minutes, it’s retweeted more than 1,000 times.
    12. 12. BuzzFeed strikes again • Andrew Kaczynski, a journalist at BuzzFeed, sends out the misinformation to his 90,000 followers and this: “Wow Reddit was right about the missing Brown student per the police scanner. Suspect identified as Sunil Tripathi.” • At 2:57 a.m., Luke Russert, a reporter for NBC News and son of the late Tim Russert, tweets a photo of Tsarnaev with this: “This pickinda feeds Sunil Tripathi theory.”
    13. 13. Internet Fate Sealed • @YourAnonNews, a Twitter news fede connected to the Hacker collective Anonymous, tweetsTripathi’sname to its hundreds of thousands of followers. • By now, many believe that Sunil Tripathi is Suspect No. 2. • On April 23, a body was pulled out of the Providence River. It was Sunil Tripathi. He had been missing since March 16.
    14. 14. This is Sunil Tripathi
    15. 15. What is Reddit? • Reddit calls itself the “front page of the internet.” • Users submit texts, links, photos and videos and are organized into sub-groups on a variety of topics. • The popularity and prominence of material on the site is determined by votes by users.
    16. 16. Reddit users • Six percent of online adults are Reddit users, according to a July nationally representative survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. • Some 15 percent of male internet users ages 18- 29 say they use reddit, compared with 5 percent of women in the same age range, and 8 percent of men ages 30-49, the survey found.
    17. 17. What now? • Reddit prides itself on being self-correcting. What does this mean? Your homework is to learn about Reddit. Read the Pew study & the Mashable site info. Check out Reddit itself. Write a blog post explaining, in detail, what Reddit has done to remedy its error. What about the people who tweeted? Are these remedies enough? If not, what else do you suggest? Cite your sources. Due next class.
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