In this paper we illustrate the ethical dilemmas that arise when large public investigations in a crisis are crowdsourced. We focus the variations in public opinion concerning the actions of two online groups during the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing. These groups collected and organized relief for victims, collected photos and videos taken of the bombing scene and created online mechanisms for the sharing and analysis of images collected online. They also used their large numbers and the affordances of the Internet to produce an answer to the question, “who was the perpetrator, and what kind of bomb was used?” We view their actions through public opinion, through sampling Twitter and applying a sentiment analysis to this data. We use this tool to pinpoint moments during the crisis investigation when the public became either more positively or negatively inclined toward the actions of the online publics. We use this as a surrogate, or proxy, for social approval or disapproval of their actions, which exposes large swings in public emotion as ethical lines are crossed by online publics.
Recommended citation: Tapia, Andrea H., and Nicolas J. LaLone. (2014). “Crowdsourcing Investigations: Crowd Participation in Identifying the Bomb and Bomber from the Boston Marathon Bombing.” International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management 6:4 60-75.”