All In   |  April 18, 2013

The Internet turns its vigilantism power toward Boston

Several websites have attempted to harness the crowd sourcing power of the internet to find the suspects in the Boston marathon bombing. Chris Hayes talks about the amateur sleuthing with Susan Crawford and Gawker's Adrian Chen.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let's bring in adrien chen, from "gawker." is this a forum?

>> a forum and millions of people, basically the kind of dominant force in an online culture .

>> this is the percentage of daily internet page views of reddit . 67% of every internet page view , way above the huffington post and "new york times." this has a larger reach if you haven't heard of it that you have heard of. and a sub- reddit people started going about the business of collating these photos, right?

>> a subsection of reddit . any can create a subsection and called "find the boston bombers." a few thousand people posting every kind of lead or photo they can find and pouring over it and trying to find who did it.

>> the creator of the boston one, was very clear he did not want to condone vigilante justice. we don't condone vigilante justice and any personal information posted that can identify someone should be deleted. if somebody looks suspicious, it's sent to the fbi. we don't do anything but show their movement. the photos didn't just stay there.

>> journalists all over read reddit . when this took off, people were paying attention to see what could these guys do because reddit has a reputation for being a force for good on the internet. people were like, can they do id?

>> they're proud sourcing this. let me show the image of this 17-year-old we decided to blur out his face. this is the 17-year-old first identified i think in an reddit sub-thread and put on the "new york post" cover. do we have that image? we don't.

>> there's a difference between detective work and vigilanteism. the detective work was really interesting. the reddit community was surprised and chagrinned an polite when the fbi photos came out and said, no more discussion or photos.

>> i'm sure the 17-year-old was thrilled when it came out.

>> when we talk about how many photos are out there, we talk about lack of privacy, the fact we're getting captured all the time, you think about it as between you and the state, law enforcement and in that case, important to solve a horrendous crime and in some cases, incursion of privacy. i never thought sitting there going through it, the vigilante potential that exists right now. there is a lot of vigilante justice increasingly on the internet.

>> i think there is this misconception distributing surveillance and distributing the kind of tools that you need to investigate will make things fairer or more efficient when it comes to justice. this case kind of shows, really, it's not like that. they singled out tons of innocent people, a lot of racial profiling going on, every brown person with a backpack was circled and put on the front page . i think you have to question whether this is a better way or --

>> you seem more sanguine about crowd sourcing .

>> like a human flesh search engine and can be terrible repercussion repercussions to people's lives but you wouldn't want to burn the village to save it, lots of images of finding new stars and new planets. you want to in cull kate new ways of behaving online.

>> i think creating norms is a big part. one of the norms should be don't try to solve a crime on your own.

>> what's fascinating to me as i've been watching over the last two or three days, two investigations happening in parallel, the official investigation and part of what we've been dealing with the line of work i'm currently in, mismatch of supply and demand for information and the actual investigation going on and then there's the parallel crowd sourced amateur investigation that's going on. it's very tempting to want to be part of that. when i was sitting there reading that thread, looking at those photos, i had this weird moment at the end of it, i got to the last photo, that's totally the dude, that's the guy. of course, it wasn't. like this hyper gonzo journalism , these people are becoming part of the story. in the end, it is a kind of journalism and i think it should be judged on that. as far as finding out facts, i don't think they did a very good job.

>> we should judge those in the world of traditional media who chose to put those on the cover of their paper.

>> thank you so much.

>> when it came to gun law reform, we're told this time is different. turns out it was no different. the outcome was so predictable in washington political terms, you could have scripted it. we will talk to someone who does this sort of thing for a living. the mastermind behind the house of cards joins