Virtual Vigilantes

Amateur Hour

Amateurs went hunting for the Boston bombers, and ended up hurting innocent people.

04.19.13 8:48 PM ET

Crowdsourcing triumphalists are feeling pretty glum today.  Reddit's attempt at sleuthing seems to have fallen very, very flat.  Actually, that's too weak; they ended up quasi-harassing innocent people by broadcasting their pictures on the web.

There's been some justifiable worry about web vigilanteism.  But I want to push back just a leetle bit.  Let's not forget law-and-order disasters like Richard Jewell and Steven Hatfill, whose lives were ruined by overzealous government investigators.  The problem is not with inviduals taking on government responsibility.  The real problem is when anyone--civilian or law enforcement--jumps the gun with insufficient information.