How Boston Marathon Bombings Triggered ‘One of the Most Alarming Social Media Events of Our Time’

LA Times business reporter Ken Bensinger and tech beat colleague Andrea Chang take a look this morning at the amateur detective work conducted on Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, Facebook and beyond this week in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. Their conclusions are not pretty:

This watershed moment for social media quickly spiraled out of control. Legions of Web sleuths cast suspicion on at least four innocent people, spread innumerable bad tips and heightened the sense of panic and paranoia.

“This is one of the most alarming social media events of our time,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia. “We’re really good at uploading images and unleashing amateurs, but we’re not good with the social norms that would protect the innocent.”

These efforts spilled over into mainstream media as well, most notably in the form of Thursday’s New York Post front page. Will we learn as a society from these Beantown mistakes and act more responsibly the next time something horrible like this happens? Probably not.

That “meaningless noise” described in the article by San Diego State University expert Murray Jennex is an inevitable part of the coverage landscape. Read the full LA Times piece here.

[Illustration: Patrimonio Designs Ltd./]