Sunil Tripathi is still missing. And is not a bombing suspect.

Late last night, social media was ablaze with near-certain speculation that one of the suspects responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings was missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi, who has been missing since March. A massive Reddit thread fueled the fire, with internet sleuths posting side by side grainy photo comparisons of Tripathi and the suspect, giving way to even wilder speculation.

None of it turned out to be true: The Internet's shameful false ID.

The entire case was based on vague physical resemblance in low-quality photos, bolstered by the fact that one Twitter user claiming to have gone to school with Tripathi said she thought it looked like him. There were dissenting voices in the thread. Tripathi is six feet tall. “Suspect two” didn’t look that tall. The suspect’s hair was too long. And most importantly, the behavior made no sense. Who disappears — causing a well-publicized region-wide search that had already expanded beyond Providence to Boston — a month before carrying out a terrorist attack? Wouldn’t it be smarter to act normal as long as possible, and maybe not do something that gets your picture posted all over television and the Internet before you attempt to plant a bomb in an incredibly public venue? Not that people who bomb innocent civilians are always the most rational actors, but they do generally try to avoid calling attention to themselves before they bomb innocent civilians.

It scarcely mattered at that point. The speculation was out there. Various Conservative blogs picked it up. Tripathi’s name was suddenly all over Twitter. Collages of the bomber and Tripathi were shared everywhere. Everyone, as usual, put much more work into finding supporting evidence than debunking evidence. The New York Post probably already had a story written before last night’s shootout and chase.
As I write this, authorities are engaged in an active manhunt for 19-year-old Dzhokar A. Tsarnaev. Meanwhile, Sunil Tripathi is still missing, and the internet just put his family through a night of hell even greater than the one they've endured. Here's the Facebook page for the search: Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi.

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