In the wake of last week's Boston Marathon bombing, people swarmed the Front Page of the Internet in an effort to gather up to date information, lend a hand in any way possible, help each other cope with the situation, and try to bring the bombers to justice. As a result, Redditors identified missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi as a possible suspect, which prompted people to leave nasty messages for Tripathi's family.
Reddit has since issued a public apology, categorizing part of the effort to help after the bombings as a witch hunt and emphasizing the need for privacy online. Though the site and its users did a whole lot of good in response to the attacks—curating information, helping stranded marathoners find places to stay, sending pizza to law enforcement teams, organizing puppy therapy at a park—it's important to note that the folks running the show at Reddit also noticed the negative response and took the opportunity to urge users to exercise caution and recognize the influence the site can have.
This crisis has reminded all of us of the fragility of people's lives and the importance of our communities, online as well as offline. These communities and lives are now interconnected in an unprecedented way. Especially when the stakes are high we must strive to show good judgement and solidarity. One of the greatest strengths of decentralized, self-organizing groups is the ability to quickly incorporate feedback and adapt. reddit was born in the Boston area (Medford, MA to be precise). After this week, which showed the best and worst of reddit's potential, we hope that Boston will also be where reddit learns to be sensitive of its own power.
"With great power comes great responsibility." - Voltaire (and Spider-Man). [Reddit]