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Think Out Loud

Crowdsourcing In A Crisis

Pete Springer/OPB

Shortly after bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, feeds popped up on websites like Reddit, where users posted information and photos in an attempt to identify the people responsible. Once the FBI released photos and video of the suspects, the amateur investigators posting on Reddit, Twitter, and other social media networks reached a fevered pitch. Many mainstream outlets completely ignored these threads, even as two people were falsely identified as suspects.

Editors at the news and entertainment website Buzzfeed argue that the mainstream media has a responsibility to pay attention to crowdsourced information:

While there are still differences between professional reporters and anonymous posters on the internet, the visibility of their work isn’t one of them. Now, the original function of news organizations — uncovering and verifying new information — is as important as it’s always been … The media’s new and unfamiliar job is to provide a framework for understanding the wild, unvetted, and incredibly intoxicating information that its audience will inevitably see — not to ignore it.

How much did you pay attention to social media after the Boston Marathon bombing? Did you engage in the hunt for information about the suspects? How did you verify the information you read or contributed?


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