One of the biggest phenomenons to emerge as a result of the Boston bombings, is something called citizen journalism. It's been around for decades, but not to this degree. When the FBI posted pictures of the two suspects asking the public's help in finding them, they rose to the challenge through posting tips on facebook, reddit and twitter. But did it do more harm than good?
Jim Tobbin is a social media expert, and says the Boston Bombings was the first major integration of citizen journalism. He said, “Social media amplifies. It amplifies the good, the bad. So the information that came out, we were able to do things way faster than we ever could've. The bad is that it's unfiltered, and anyone is a publisher and everyone is a publisher, and a lot of erroneous information gets out as well.”
One of the biggest problems authorities faced was the live tweeting of information coming out their police scanner. Tobbin said, “There's tactical information about where the police are that would help the suspect, releasing incorrect information, so that kind of speed and lack of restraint, and understanding the full picture can lead to some bad places.”
Sites like Reddit were posting transcripts of information filtering through the Boston Police scanner, something authorities believed could've jeopardized their operations. But Tobbin says that overall, social media is more beneficial than harmful to authorities.
He said, “There's a group on Reddit that discovered another photo of a bomber walking away from the scene hours and hours before any news organization did, so that kind of crowd sourcing was a really big asset to authorities.”
Tobbin explained that it's like having thousands of amateur investigators, and all the more eyes on an investigation.