How influential was social media in the coverage of the Boston marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt of the suspects?


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Yo Kass Profile
Yo Kass , Social media obsessed, answered

I've been watching the events unfolding in Boston with great interest, and some disbelief, to be honest.

What started off as a really horrible tragedy that took the lives of three innocent people and injured many more, turned into some sort of weird social media-fuelled manhunt really quickly.

Social media and the Boston Bombings

The main thing that people are discussing with regards to social media and the events in Boston comes down to the way that people used Twitter to update the world about the law enforcement's activity and whereabouts during the manhunt.

Whilst the FBI was going house-to-house looking for the suspects, the general public took to Twitter in a wave of mass "digilantism" (a cross between the words 'digital' and 'vigilantism' that I stole from TechCrunch).

Not only did the public's activity potentially help the suspects evade the law by possibly updating them about where the police were (can you imagine the fuss that would have been made if they had managed to disappear completely?) - but I also think that the climate of fear that was created bordered on the frenetic.

The dangers of social media in these situations

As I've already highlighted, the damage that Twitter potentially dealt to the police's investigation may trigger a whole new set of digital laws.

How long before the US government starts passing laws that make it a serious offence to tweet information about criminal investigations or police activity? 

Will the police gain the power to shut down any website that infringes these laws? Sounds draconian, but I think these are ever more likely scenarios!   

Social media frenzy after Boston

The other concern I have about how the internet dealt with the Boston bombings is the amount of fear and hatred that was generated.

Whilst what happened in Boston was truly deplorable, and the perpetrators certainly deserve to face the full weight of the law - it's scary how people began accusing innocent members of the public (even the New York Post named and published a photo of a "potential-suspect" who actually had nothing to do with the attack!).

Cloaked by anonymity, the darker side of human nature always comes out during events like these.

Even now, when video footage and details of the first suspect being hunted down and shot are getting thousands of shares and retweets - it seems as if everyone has completely forgotten the most basic of human rights!

Neither of the two suspects have actually been tried or found guilty yet - so are therefore just as innocent as you or I.

Furthermore, even if they are the true perpetrators, people seem to have forgotten all about the possibility that these young men were used and manipulated by a far greater evil.

Instead, we're all so focused on the two suspects that have been identified, that we've forgotten all about questioning how and why these shocking events actually took place!

2 People thanked the writer.
Andrew Neal
Andrew Neal commented
Great viewpoints!
Dan Banks
Dan Banks commented
I agree with you, but I also think that social media's impact was somewhat overestimated. After-all the police identified the suspects, and an infra-red camera caught the second suspect whilst he was hiding. Social media was great for reporting the events but not so effective at influencing them.

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