On April 15, 2013, two bomb explosions went off at the Boston Marathon. This disaster killed 3 people and injured 183 people. Since the bombing might be related to terrorism, FBI was quickly in charge and began investigating the attack. On April 18, FBI released the pictures and videos of 2 potential suspects to various media platforms, asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspects. The information soon became significant and viral around the world through the internet. People used the media platforms to share any evidence that might benefit the investigation, and this was how Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Google had a great positive impact on the Boston Marathon Bombing investigation.
The Boston Police Department used Twitter as a tool to publish information about the marathon bombing, such as the development of the ongoing investigation, images of the 2 suspects, license plates of the vehicles that the suspects had stolen, and many other related photographs and videos. The Boston Police Department was successful in informing the public with the latest news by updating its Twitter account every 30 to 45 minutes. Moreover, Boston Police was also able to collect a lot of attack-related information by highly recommending people to tag @Boston_Police on Twitter whenever they have important information to share.
The following tweet was what the Boston Police Department posted after they captured the second suspect. This tweet was short and simple, yet it brought much excitement and relief to all the people who had been very concerned about the attack.
Some Twitter users have also set up related hash tags to show support and love for the victims who were involved in the Boston Bombing. Some of the hash tags were: #PrayforBoston, #Bostonstrong, and #BostonMarathon.
YouTube has set up a special channel on YouTube Spotlight and it is called the Boston Bombings: Latest Developments. This special channel gathers all the news and videos that are related to the Boston Marathon from different personal accounts and official news channels, such as The New York Times, CNN, and the Whitehouse. The latest uploaded news would be posted as the first video of the YouTube spotlight channel. This set up brought a lot of convenience for viewers because they don’t have to search around the YouTube website to look for the latest update of the story development.
Facebook hadn’t set up any official page for this case, but when FBI released the images and videos of the two potential suspects, the information quickly became the most popular trend over Facebook. On the other hand, Boston Police Department also used Facebook as a tool to publish marathon bombing related information to the public. As you can see from the picture below, the post was shared 6863 times by different people. This was very helpful to the FBI investigation because the more the people read and shared the post, the more likely the potential witnesses would share their information to FBI, and thus the greater opportunity for the FBI to figure out the location of the two suspects.
Google set up a Boston Marathon Person Finder page on their Google Person Finder system. There are two categories in the Finder, “I’m looking for someone” and “I have information about someone”. Users can either enter the name of a person they are looking for, or they can use this Finder to share any information about an individual. After the bombings occurred at the Boston Marathon, many people quickly relied on the Google Person Finder to search for the names of friends and families who were at the scene. These friends and families could be participants of the marathon or spectators, and might be lost or potentially injured. A very touching story was described in Jason Corrigan’s Blog “How Boston’s Marathon Victims Found Missing Loved Ones With Google Person Finder”. Kelly Manning’s daughter, Samantha, was a participant of the Boston Marathon. After the explosions, Kelly was very worried about her daughter’s safety but could not get in touch with her because the police had cut off all the cellphone signals nearby. The police was suspecting a third bomb in the location at that time, and the cellphone signals might be used as a trigger to the bomb. Since Kelly Manning lost direct contact with her daughter, she went to the Google Person Finder and requested for the latest information about Samantha. An hour later, Kelly received information from the Person Finder and learned that her daughter was safe and unharmed.
Google Person Finder would be explained in more details in my other post “What is Google Person Finder”.
In conclusion, media platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Google had greatly contributed to Boston bombing manhunt’s success. People worked collectively and made the effort to share any resources and information that were related to the attack. This was one of the reasons why the horrible crime was solved so quickly.