Internet guerrilla journalism for everyone, by everyone – good or bad?
This is the central question posed by filmmakers in ‘The Thread’, a documentary following the emotional days immediately after the terrible Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013 – when amateur internet sleuths took to Twitter and Reddit, intent on examining all the available footage, sharing ideas and theories, and weeding out the individuals responsible.
One such thread on social media led to investigation that meant one innocent young man was charged with the terrible crime, leading to terrible consequences for all involved.
Social media users turned amateur sleuths in the days after the Boston Marathon Bombing
“We could see when we were making it that this film could highlight a huge ethical dilemma,” producer Jonathan Chinn tells HuffPostUK. “Whether it’s Wikileaks, science or technology, the combination of technology plus the desire for citizen journalism has created this huge dilemma. It’s not black and white.”
Jonathan points out the gap filled by amateur bloggers on social media is one that traditional news organisations, with their requirement for second sources and analysis, are unable to do themselves.
“Citizen journalists aren’t a force of evil, but they’re not knights in shining armour, they’re somewhere in the middle.”
He also mentions the fact, as recent stories about NBC anchorman Brian Williams to the Rolling Stone controversy about reporting a rape on a university campus prove, even the traditional news organisations with their resources and budgets can’t guarantee accuracy – “they’re having to retract and it’s a mess.”
‘The Thread’ makes an engrossing study but offers no fixed conclusion, and neither does Jonathan.
“Is news going to be in the hands of a bunch of iPhone waving kids?” he asks. “I’d be scared if it were only in their hands, but that’s the same for traditional corporations. I see citizen journalism as a check and balance. This is the price we pay for having people deliver us the news. Like everything else, it depends on the better angels of our nature to make sure that whoever is reporting the news is doing their best.
“But it’s not going back in the box. Citizen journalism is here to stay, learn about its fallibility, so we have to be prepared and learn how to deal with it. “
'The Thread' is available to download or view-on-demand on major digital platforms from 13 April 2015. Watch the trailer below...