Condé Nast-owned community website Reddit has issued an apology for an "online witch hunt" launched by its users in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt.
Reddit enthusiasts banded together in a bid to find the people responsible for the bombs, but mistakenly named missing 22-year-old student Sunil Tripathi as a suspect. A Facebook page set up by his family to help find the missing man was then bombarded with hate messages.
In an official blog, Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit, wrote:
Some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened.
We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Tripathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Tripathi family and their search.
In the aftermath of the bombings, Reddit saw its user numbers surge to a high of 272,000 as the community sifted through any scraps of information to find the bombers.
While some users were posting ill-advised accusations about an innocent man, other Reddit fans were buying pizza for cops on the case, donating to relief funds and arranging a mass dog walk in the park, so "people could escape with some cute animal therapy".
Reddit is owned by Condé Nast's parent company, Advance Publications. Its stablemates include more conventional titles such as WiReD magazine, where staff would consider themselves fortunate to escape such an episode with (apparently) no more than an apology. ®