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The Role Social Media Played In #BostonBombings

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – As the investigation into the terror attack on the Boston Marathon played out, nearly every development played out on social media sites.  Pieces of information were being sent out via Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit with incredible speed.

As soon as the FBI released images of the suspects they were quickly shared, tweeted and retweeted.  Within minutes their faces were seen by millions.

“They were able to find killers a lot faster because everyone posted pictures online,” said social media user Robert Lankford.

Joseph Treaster is a University of Miami Communications Professor and a former New York Times Reporter.  He said information is shared so fast nowadays.

“Ordinary people are tweeting what they see, what they hear,” Treaster said.

Before officials could even identify the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, citizen journalists on Reddit were trying to get their names.

Two incorrect names surfaced.

“Sometimes it’s accurate.  Sometimes it’s not,” Treaster said.  “You can get a sense of what’s going on because a consensus will often develop.”

Some were sharing information gathered from police scanners.  In professional newsrooms, scanners are used to gather information, but never for reporting.  That’s because it’s not always right.

On Friday, CBS News tweeted:  “Boston Police are asking social media users not to post information they hear on police frequencies/scanner channels.”

Twitter was introduced in 2006 and has changed our world.  When Osama Bin Laden was killed in May of 2011, the Internet trumped President Barack Obama.

Friday night, millions learned about second marathon bombing suspect from the Boston Police Department tweet that read: “Captured.”

In his press conference tonight President Obama addressed tweets and blogs.  He said there’s a temptation to jump to conclusions, but cautioned investigations take time.

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