Saturday, 20 April 2013

President Obama & Sunil Tripathi: Social Media Lessons

Following the drama we've seen in Boston this week, the role and power of social media to inform and misinform has once again been highlighted.  I had written about this earlier in the week (Lessons from Boston and the Dubai Tremors) but it was refreshing to see President Obama address the issue head on in his comments following the capture of Suspect #2.
President Obama at the inter-faith service in Boston.
He said as follows:
In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs, there's a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions. But when a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it's important that we do this right. That's why we have investigations. That's why we relentlessly gather the facts. That's why we have courts. And that's why we take care not to rush to judgment -- not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people.
(To read his full statement, click here).

It is very easy to jump to conclusions and fuel a rumour mill with misinformation.  I know I was guilty of this earlier this week when I started mentioning to people Suspect #2 was Sunil Tripathi.  I got this information from what I thought were reliable social media feeds and was gutted to find out an innocent man who has been missing was being wrongly mistaken as a bomber.  You have to feel for his family in such times and when I saw the video his family posted on YouTube for his return, you feel even worse.  If you haven't seen the video, click on it below.

Some sections of the media got it right. They held back in giving names, ethnic backgrounds and further details of the suspects when it seemed everyone was talking about it.  I now understand and respect those sections of the media that did.  It is not only about first to market but about being respectful about the fact that you are dealing with people, families, emotions and reputations.

There is a Facebook page for Sunil Tripathi also and if you can, please do follow it (

I don't know Sunil Tripathi but hope his family has a sense of closure one way or another.  I'm sure the video only shows glimpses of how they've missed him and how important he has been to them.  We've seen the role of people in helping capture the two Boston bombing suspects, I just hope the same people can also help bring Sunil (or Sunny as his family calls him) home.

Update (21 April, 2013): Sunny Tripathi's siblings spoke to a media outlet in an interview shortly after their brother's name was cleared.  Have a look at that link here.  The Twitter account setup to post updates is @findingsunny.

Update (27 April, 2013): Sunil Tripathi's body was recovered in the waters off Providence, Rhode Island.  My condolences are with the family during their time of grief and hope his soul rests in peace.  Losing a loved one is never easy but not having any closure can be more difficult I'd imagine.  RIP Sunny.