What Twitter Got Wrong During the Week Following Last Year’s Boston Marathon

Bombs planted — all over the city — from the JFK Library to Harvard, retweet to honor the 8-year-old girl who died running the marathon, and the “Bag Men.’’ In times of uncertainty, people will fall for a lot on social media, and last year’s Boston Marathon brought out the rumors in droves. Here’s a recap of what Twitter got really wrong over the course of the week following the 2013 Boston Marathon.

1. The 8-year-old Sandy Hook runner

The heartbreaking story of a young girl killed while running the Marathon in honor of her fallen friends went viral early. Before Martin Richard was identified as one of the victims, Twitter circulated with the death of an 8-year-old girl who was supposedly given the opportunity to run in the marathon. Some posts claimed this girl went to Sandy Hook Elementary School but was unharmed in the shooting that killed 20 children in Newtown, Conn. four months before the Boston Marathon.

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Many fought against the rumor, especially since runners have to be 18 to compete in the Marathon. Some people from Newtown ran in the Boston Marathon and were watching at the finish line, but they left before the bombs went off, according to ABC News.

2. The JFK Library explosion

When smoke billowed out of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, officials were uncertain if this was just a fire or another explosion related to the bombings near Copley Square. And they kept wavering about which it was.

At 4:23 p.m., the JFK Library tweeted: [fragment number=2]


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But Police Commissioner Ed Davis still said it could be related to the bombings.

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And told the public to figure it out for themselves…

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Until they agreed with the JFK Library:

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Though the confusion went on until the Boston Fire Department confirmed that the incident at the JFK Library was caused by the “careless disposal of smoking material.’’

3. Bombs all over the city and Cambridge


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Tufts Medical Center:

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Luckily, they were all just reports.

4. The government shut down cell phone service

Some people at the scene hastily tried to dial out for help and alert others what happened at the finish line. Many more people were trying unsuccessfully to call in to check on people they know in Boston. There was so much trouble that people took to Twitter to spread the news that the mobile service was purposely shut down — and attempt workarounds.

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The Associated Press originally reported that “cellphone service had been shut down,’’ according to an unnamed law enforcement official, but cellular companies said that they did not halt service. The increased usage in Boston likely caused the spotty service.

5. Misidentified suspects: Sunil, Mike, and the “Bag Men’’

While the New York Post labeled two innocent marathon watchers as “Bag Men,’’ Reddit and Twitter users went on their own investigation that led astray.

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Writing off what was said on the police scanner and the Reddit thread led people to claim a missing Brown University student, Sunil Tripathi, was one of the suspects until the names of the alleged bombers were released. Tripathi’s body was found in a Providence park on April 23, 2013. Some Redditors and other accusers offered apologies after the Tsarnaevs were named suspects.


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6. The false arrest claims

CNN reporter John King first broke the news that an arrest was made two days after the Marathon.

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Sources for the Associated Press, Boston Globe, and Fox News all corroborated the news. But it was wrong.

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7. Dzhohkar Tsarnaev’s social media accounts

The new normal: Almost every major event, whether it’s newsworthy or not, spurs fake and parody Twitter accounts.

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Buzzfeed reported that this was the genuine account for Dzhohkar Tsarnaev. The last tweet from the account was on April 17, 2013.

8. The naked guy

Of course, it all leads up to the naked guy in Watertown the night of the shootout, originally believed by many to be suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

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Turns out, the naked man was only briefly detained, but he sparked many conspiracy theories.

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