Internet sleuths name wrong man in police appeal
An innocent man faced a torrent of online threats and abuse after being mistakenly identified in a viral video in which an angry cyclist harmed a child.
The boy 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 mistakenly identified by Internet experts as marketing manager Peter Weinberg.
His home address was shared online.
Weinberg was incorrectly identified when an incorrect date was attached to the police’s initial appeal in Bethesda, United States.
Weinberg used the famous Strava fitness monitoring app, which showed him that he had been on the Maryland bike path that day.
However, on the correct date he was working at home.
He has been inundated with messages on various social media platforms accusing him of harming the child and being racist.
Once his address had been shared by others – a practice known as doxxing – police had to patrol the area for his safety, the New York magazine reported.
“I recently learned that I was incorrectly identified in connection with a deeply disturbing attack,” tweeted Weinberg.
“Please know that it wasn’t me. I have been in contact with the authorities and will continue to help in any way possible.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh tweeted that Weinberg was not a suspect.
He was also ruled out as a suspect in an official police report.
Another man, Anthony Brennan III, has now been charged with the assault.
Since then Weinberg has received dozens of apologies from people who abused him online.
“First, I would like to apologize for being part of the crowd that mistakenly identified Mr. Weinberg as the motorcyclist who attacked Bethesda’s girlfriend,” tweeted Darryl Wharton Rigby.
“Like many I was annoyed by the action of man and piled up …”
In his most recent tweet, Weinberg says: “We must align in the struggle for justice and equality, but not at the expense of due process and the right to privacy and security.”
Don’t F ** k With Cats, a recent documentary series on Netflix, told the true story of a Facebook community that successfully tracked down the killer Luka Magnotta, who came to their attention after posting a video anonymous of himself killing two kittens.
However, Internet detectives don’t always do it well.
In 2013, Reddit had to apologize after a subreddit – or thread – mistakenly identified several suspects while hunting for the Boston bomber.
“Although it started with noble intentions, some of the activities on Reddit have fueled the online witch hunt and dangerous speculations that have turned into very negative consequences for the innocent parties,” he said at the time.