April 17, 2013

The Internet is Crowdsourcing the Identity of the Boston Bomber via Online Photo Analysis


My heart goes out to all the people affected by the bombing that took place in Boston earlier this week, what a terrible tragedy.

There is one very interesting trend that has come out of this situation – the Internet has united together to sift through massive volumes of photos and videos taken at the event to disseminate information that may lead to the capture of the people behind the bombing.

This is a historic first, and shows just how profoundly the Internet has affected people and access to information.  A “findbostonbombers” subreddit forum was set up to bring thousands of Internet detectives together to sift through the volumes of data on social networking site Reddit. Several hours since its inception, several suspects have already been identified from photos. There is also an entire Imgur gallery showing suspects as well as photos linking evidence. The speed and efficiency of such work is unprecedented, but it also comes with some dangers.

Mob justice has been known to quickly overtake the Internet and threaten the lives of innocent people. If one of the suspects is wrongly accused and the “crowd” decides that they are the perpetrator, there is no doubt that their safety would be threatened. What the Internet giveth in the collective wisdom of crowds, the Internet also taketh in the form of their collective stupidity. I’m almost certain this crowdsourcing of evidence will lead to a fast crack down of those responsible, but it will only be smooth sailing  if no judgement calls are made before authorities confirm the evidence.

What does this mean for the future? It seems that we are already living in a weird dystopian future where we are linked up to this real-time information machine known as the ‘net. Citizens of the net, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that information is used correctly, spread fairly and not allow emotions get the better of our judgement. We have all become content creators, disseminators, aggregators and connectors through the enabler of social media, and it is now more important than ever to realize the collective power this premise holds for humanity.

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