How Social Media was used During the Boston Marathon Bombings

Bombings During the Boston Marathon

On April 15th, 2013 during the annual Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded at approximately 2:49 PM killing 3 people and injuring 264. The bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street and chaos erupted in the crowd of marathon runners and viewers. The news immediately hit television stations and the whole country was alerted of what was going on. It was suspected to be an act of terrorism and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released photos and a video of the two suspects involved who were later identified as brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. After the FBI released the pictures there was a shooting where the suspect killed an MIT police officer, carjacked an SUV, and initiated gunfire with the police in Watertown, Massachusetts. During the gun fire one of the suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was injured, but escaped. A manhunt commenced and thousands of police officers searched Watertown for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Most people first found out about the bombings from Twitter as numerous tweets included photos of the scene at the finish line. After the bombings occurred, individuals that were directly involved in the investigation used the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the public  and update them on what was going on. The main players that were using Twitter were the Boston PD and the FBI, but tweets from all over poured providing updates and breaking news. The Boston Globe tweeted “BREAKING NEWS: Two powerful explosions detonated in quick succession right next to the Boston Marathon finish line this afternoon.” Boston marathon organizers said in a statement on Facebook that the explosion was caused by two bombs: “We are working with law enforcement to understand what exactly happened.” Digg tweeted out how the NY Times unveiled a map of the explosion site in proximity to the finish line. Before, during and after the explosions both the FBI and Boston PD used Twitter to reach out to the public to inform them of what was going and what to do. The public found out in real time what was going on as soon as the law enforcement did. They were given updates, instructions and tips throughout. Boston PD’s first tweet was directly after the initial explosion, it read: “Boston police confirming explosion at marathon finish line with injuries.” Then they later tweeted “23 injured, 2 dead.”  The Boston Globe tweeted that one of the people that was deceased during the bombings was an 8 year old boy. Boston PD then tweeted about a third incident that occurred at JFK library and that they were unsure if it was related or not to the bombings. JFK Library tweeted out “The fire in the building is out. Appears to have started in the mechanical room. All staff and visitors are safe and accounted for.” Boston PD used Twitter to provide a Task force tip line number so people could call in if they had any tips on the case and tweeted a number that family members looking for info related to injured individuals could call. Boston PD tweeted instructions to the general population of Boston how to best remain safe and when there were news conferences. The residents of Watertown were instructed by the Boston PD to stay in doors and not answer the door unless they were instructed by a police officer to do so. The FBI also used twitter to reach out to the public during this investigation. FBI Boston first tweeted “FBI assists Boston Police Department Regarding Explosions along Marathon Route and Elsewhere.” The FBI released several images of the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and tweeted “Bombing suspect may be driving a 4-door green Honda Civic with Massachusetts plates reading 116GC7”. When the suspect was finally captured they were the first to tweet “Dzhokar Tsarnaev, age 19, suspect in Boston bombing investigation, is now in custody.” After this terrible tragedy, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown published a statement on Facebook that stated “Like many of you, I was at first horrified. Now I am mad. This was a cowardly act, just cowardly. Our country is at its best when our back is against the wall.” On Wednesday, May 1st, the Boston Police Department announced via Twitter that three additional suspects were taken into custody in connection with the bombings. The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts then tweeted information about this case, and noted when these men would appear in federal court. Boston PD recently informed citizens via the Twitter that despite these developments, there was no threat to their safety.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites alike are changing the way the general public is receiving information. For the first time the public can now get information on such tragedies as this in real time while it is happening. These social media sites are also providing another way for law enforcement officials to communicate with the public to provide instructions and seek out help on catching wanted individuals.

The first photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was released and tweeted by the Boston Police directly after the bombings.
Video of the suspect involved in the Boston Marathon bombing was released by the FBI via Twitter.
The Boston PD constantly updated the general public by Tweeting out to them during the investigation.
Boston PD alerted the public when as soon as the suspect was in custody.
The FBI tweeted out a picture of the wanted suspect’s possible license plate number.
The Boston PD warned the public that the at large suspect was armed and dangerous.
The general whereabouts of the incidents location was released by this Twitpic
Boston Police Department’s Twitter Account
FBI Boston’s Twitter Account

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