Reddit was cautiously excited about this development; then-general manager Erik Martin told me that "what is on the news isn't always the story that people want to talk about and be involved with.
On this site, you can get into and explore what you're truly interested in." The next day, Jones' thread found an Adult Friend Finder profile that seemed to belong to the shooter, James Holmes, that had gone unfound by legacy outlets.
More traditional media pundits blustered (somewhat rightly) about the dangers of news gathering from nonprofessional sources; outlets that reported on the Adult Friend Finder profile did not credit Jones or Reddit.
"It was sort of a strange feeling, like Reddit's supposed to be this aggregate news site, but we're actually breaking news to the media right now," Jones told the New York Times.
They're players in nearly ever major internet scandal of 2014: the online manhunt for Bryan Hamade, the man believed to have leaked Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos and sparked "The Fappening"; the sexual-harassing, doxxing, ethics crusading online Hydra behind Gamer Gate; the cold-case internet sleuthing inside the Serial podcast subreddit (which had 24,943 subscribers as of this writing); and, most recently, the troubling outing of the alleged victim behind Rolling Stone's now-bungled UVA campus rape story by a former writer turned internet troll.
While the Boston bombing Reddit disaster tempered media optimism toward of the online citizen investigative complex, its high profile was a clear signal to the anonymous practitioners of vigilante "journalism": True or not, their voices were a dominant part of the greater media landscape.
As my colleagues here at Buzz Feed wrote in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon manhunt, the media had to grapple with the notion that it doesn't own the story anymore; that "it's time for the press to start guiding readers through the sea of information — and stop pretending there's only one narrative."It's this mentality of addressing all corners of the internet's reporting machine — even its deepest, darkest, and most conspiratorial — that has given way to the rise of the viral debunk, a new breed of fact-checking for a breakneck news cycle with any number of unvetted sources.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook in late 2012 spawned numerous message board threads — some helpful, some heinous — to try to cover the mass shooting.
The most infamous example came in April 2013 when the r/findbostonbombers subreddit launched an exhaustive and reckless manhunt that resulted in the spread of damaging misinformation that soon found its way to the New York Post's front page.