Question : Who is accountable or responsible when a false accusation or false report results in the death of a person?
Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was wrongly tied to the Boston Marathon bombing. The result (
may have been) his death. There are indications that he may have died before the bombing. The questions still remain.
Reddit General Manager Erik Martin wrote:
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.
He wrote this prior to knowing that young Sunil was dead. I was considering other situations like this as this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. The question around how and why Sunil died is only second to the question concerning crowdsourcing a witch hunt.
Am I allowed to yell “fire” in a movie theater? If not, can I tweet it? Can I post it on Facebook or Google+ or Reddit? Would that be ok? This young man may have been murdered as a result of this unfettered broadcast. If Erik Martin and others weren’t wrong about how this went down, why did he apologize? No apology is needed if you did nothing wrong.
We need to consider..
If everyone were a journalist (Shield laws) may protect reporters but they don’t offer the same protections for a public citizen. Additionally, we need to think about the ramifications of crowdsourcing law and justice. A lot of us are highly charged over this terrorist act and of course the terrorist acts before this but that doesn’t give us the right to take up arms and become Batman. I don’t have answers on this one, simply a lot of questions. Is the FBI going to make an arrest on this or is this death going to go unsolved without any justice? Further, what if he was killed by the crowd? Who is responsible? Would the mob be arrested? Would the FBI knock on every door and arrest everyone who tweeted or re-posted this information for consideration?