Yes But It’s Not Just Reddit Though

April 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

There are some interesting conversations happening around the web regarding McGruff the Crime Dog E-Sleuthing and the effectiveness of similar. Or lack thereof, as seems to be the case. New York Magazine focuses on all the mistakenly identified bombing suspects; The Wall Street Journal asks if Reddit helps or harms during a crisis; The Guardian discusses the limits of crowdsourcing, using Reddit’s interference in the Boston Bombing case as their primary case study; The New Statesman (which I linked to yesterday, but while we’re laundry listing) chronicles the Sunil Tripathi angle; and the BBC argues that Reddit didn’t just get the bombing case wrong, but very wrong.

Although I agree that Reddit should be taken to task over this (well not ALL of Reddit, the Redditors who blithely amplified innuendo and misinformation), they are hardly the only or even the biggest fish to fry. The worse offenders in the Boson Bombing story are the sloppy journalists who took this dubious information, did about as thorough a job as the Redditors had done in fact checking (in that they did not fact check), and then ran with the story as if the information was anything more than speculative fiction — which is one of the reasons this news cycle has been such an irredeemable clusterfuck.

Hopefully, the overarching narrative surrounding crowdsourcing doesn’t elide the fact that in order for crowdsourced content to reach critical mass (thus risking the unfair exposure and exploitation of innocent parties), it has to be amplified by larger mainstream outlets. Meaning that the conversation doesn’t and can’t stop after wagging one’s finger at the hivemind. Had the information Reddit generated stayed on-site, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But it did not stay on-site, it was picked up by outlets that, frankly, should have known better. In short, the most pointed criticisms should be directed not at the amateurs, who do what they do on their free time, but rather with the professionals, who do what they do for a paycheck, and with their editors’ blessing. Without the latter, the worst offenses of the former would never see the light of day.

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