December 5, 2023

Tishamarie online

Specialists in technology

Internet sleuths name wrong man in police appeal

cyclist suspectImage copyright
Maryland-National Capital Park Police

Image caption

The images of the suspect were shared on social media by Maryland-National Capital Park Police

An innocent man faced a torrent of online threats and abuse after being mistakenly identified in a viral video in which an angry cyclist hurt a child.

The child and two others were putting up posters in support of George Floyd, the black man killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis.

In the video, which has now been viewed over 32 million times, the cyclist was wrongly identified by internet sleuths as marketing executive Peter Weinberg.

His home address was shared online.

Mr Weinberg was falsely identified when the wrong date was attached to the initial appeal made by the police in Bethesda, US.

Mr Weinberg used the popular fitness tracking app Strava, which showed him as having been on the Maryland bike trail on that day.

However on the correct date he was working at home.

He was inundated with messages on various social media platforms accusing him of harming the child and of being racist.

Once his address had been shared by others – a practice known as doxxing – the police had to patrol the area for his safety, reported New York magazine.

“I recently learned I have been misidentified in connection with a deeply disturbing attack,” Mr Weinberg tweeted.

“Please know this was not me. I have been in touch with the authorities and will continue to help any way possible.”

Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh tweeted that Mr Weinberg was not a suspect.

He was also excluded as a suspect in an official police report.

Another man, Anthony Brennan III, has now been charged with the assault.

Mr Weinberg has since received dozens of apologies from people who abused him online.

“First, I would like to apologise for being part of the mob falsely identifying Mr Weinberg as the biker who attacked the young girl in Bethesda,” tweeted Darryl Wharton Rigby.

“Like many I was incensed by the man’s action and piled on…”

In his most recent tweet, Mr Weinberg says: “We must align in the fight for justice and equality – but not at the cost of due process and the right to privacy and safety.”

Internet sleuths

Don’t F**k With Cats, a recent documentary series on Netflix, told the true story of a Facebook community which successfully tracked down the murderer Luka Magnotta, who came to their attention after posting an anonymous video of himself killing two kittens.

However internet detectives don’t always get it right.

In 2013 Reddit had to apologise after a subreddit – or thread – wrongly identified several suspects during the hunt for the Boston bomber.

“Though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on Reddit fuelled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiralled into very negative consequences for innocent parties,” it said at the time.

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