Internet Sleuths Try To Piece Together Boston Marathon Bombing Clues
While FBI officials continue their investigation, users on community message boards do their own digging.
As federal and local officials creep into the fourth day of investigations to find out who may have been responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, self-proclaimed Internet detectives started to do their own digging to try and solve the latest city mystery. Reports that a suspect had been identified and arrested cropped up Wednesday afternoon, just 48 hours after the treacherous attacks occurred on Boylston Street, but they were quickly swatted down by FBI agents and Boston Police officers who both claimed no individual was placed in custody for the crime.
Meanwhile, in the underbelly of the Internet, members of a website called 4Chan.org, a community bulletin board where photos and information are widely shared between users, people began piecing together pictures from the scene of the first bombing and trying to connect individuals they deemed mysterious and suspicious to the clues that were revealed about the bombing by the mainstream media. In one post, a collage of photographs with arrows, red circles outlining possible suspects, and cropped images of the exploded bag that allegedly held one of the explosive devices—later identified by FBI officials—was created and circulated among several sub-Internet community groups.
While all the information is speculative, the images tried to match bags that people at the scene of the crime were wearing to those of the bag recovered by investigators. On Reddit.com, a community bulletin site with sub-genres and categories, the group called “Find Boston Bombers” became an area where tips and photos and conspiracy theories have been posted and shared. The group claims it’s “nothing more than a single place for people to compile, analyze, and discuss images, links, and thoughts about the Boston Bombing.” The moderators of the page do not support “vigilante justice,” and are merely providing a platform for discussion, they claim. “[This] is a discussion forum, not a journalistic media outlet. We do not strive, nor pretend, to release journalist-quality content for the sake of informing the public,” according to the group’s page. “The harsh reality is that discussion requires looking at all possibilities. But to equate discussion with an unambiguous implication of guilt is presumptive and hyperbolic.”
On an additional sub-Reddit page specifically for Boston, a user by the name of “Guinness” took photos provided by media outlets, of the shards left over from one of the bombs, and went to work tracking down where the pieces could have been purchased:
According to the user, one of the batteries that was allegedly in one of the devices is available on eBay for less than $20, and about 600 of them have recently been sold by one distributor. The user reached out to the person selling the items to find out if any had come to the Boston area. People who read the post reacted to the theory, and claimed they sent the information along to the FBI. “You never know,” one person wrote in response.
Boston’s tech community has also been trying to aid officials in the search for a possible suspect connected to the marathon catastrophe. A web-savvy group launched “Evidence Upload,” a place where locals can share photos and video from the day of the Marathon in an effort to push the FBI’s investigation forward. On the site, the creators say that they were searching for a way to help in the days following the blasts that injured nearly 200 people, and claimed the loves of three innocent victims. They created evidenceupload.org to “provide a way for spectators of the Boston Marathon to easily bulk upload their photographs and video” to the FBI “We are a group of technology people trying to use our skills for the good of Boston. We all have a connection to Boston and its people, either through work or relationship,” according to the site’s creators. “We’re volunteers working on this project around the clock and still fine tuning things and listening to your feedback. But in the meantime, let’s do our best to get law enforcement everything they need.
As the online community continues to gather information and try and make sense of the tragedy, FBI officials have asked that the mainstream media be careful in their reporting. “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting,” officials said in a statement on Tuesday.