Crowdsourcing may have helped authorities identify leads and find suspects, but it also resulted in the misidentification of Sunil Tripathi, a Brown University student who has been missing since March 16. Sunil is the son of Akhil Tripathi, former CIO of Harleysville Insurance and an Insurance & Technology Elite 8 Award honoree (2008).
[Akhil Tripathi left Harleysville in July 2010. He moved to Unirisx in October of that year: Akhil Tripathi Takes on CEO Role at Policy Admin Vendor Unirisx .]
Following the bomb attack, users of the 4chan and Reddit networking and bulletin board sites engaged in a crowsourced effort to amass and analyze photographic evidence. At some point a Reddit user likened a suspect in one of the clearer pictures to Sunil, whose disappearance had been reported widely, in both the United States and elsewhere, including Britain and India. That association led to snowballing speculation and assumptions that reinforced convictions among many social media user that Sunil was implicated. As NDTV reports, "The name Sunil Tripathi suddenly began trending worldwide on Twitter, as a debate raged online whether one of two pictures of the suspects released by the FBI was indeed that of Mr Tripathi."
In a piece at Salon entitled The Internet's Shameful False ID, blogger Alex Pareene notes:
"On Reddit, the Tripathi speculation, first limited to a branch of the conversation in the discussion of the FBI’s photos and videos, soon received its own, massive thread. The thread is full of the worst of crowd-sourced message board investigations, from ridiculous total certainty (“The facial structure is almost exactly the same”) to incredibly irresponsible mistakes (“Except that isn’t Sunil, it’s his brother”).
News of suspicion falling on their missing son and brother compounded the emotional toll already felt by the Tripathi family, according to Akhil, who spoke with Insurance & Technology. Judy Tripathi, Sunil’s mother adds, “The last 34 days, and the last 12 hours especially, have been heartwrenching and exhausting. We remain tireless in our continued search for Sunil.”
Initially the Tripathis took down a Facebook page dedicated to spreading awareness of Sunil's disappearance because of speculation and hostile comments alleging a role in the Boston Marathon bombing. However, after the initial shock of the false reports the Tripathis reinstated the Facebook page. Publicity can serve to both clear Sunil's name and to further spread awareness of his family's efforts to find him.
"We deeply appreciate our industry colleagues and friends spreading the news any way they can," said Akhil.
The Tripathis request that readers share both the Facebook page and a video created by the family, linked below.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio