Reddit hit with a denial-of-service attack

April 19, 2013

The social news site Reddit is being hit with what the company called a “malicious” denial of service attack, first disclosed via its official Twitter account Friday.

The company first disclosed that it was being targeted with an attack on Friday around 6:30 a.m. Eastern. As of mid-morning on Friday, most users were able to access the site, though some site functions have been disabled.

The company has not said if it has any indication of who is behind the attack. Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There is no evidence that the attack may be related to the recent attention Reddit has received as its users collect and analyze pictures and information related to Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. The site has been one of the main centers for a grassroots effort to poring over images and footage of the race, looking for suspicious figures.

As The Washington Post reported, the site has provided an outlet for amateur sleuths, but has also been the source of some misinformation as social media sites, news outlets and others have spread speculation from Reddit across the Web.

The moderators of the “findbostonbombers” subreddit have posted messages trying to make it clear that the information they’re posting is based on speculation, saying “We do not strive, nor pretend, to release journalist-quality content for the sake of informing the public.”

The rules of the forum also say, clearly, “We do not condone vigilante justice.”

Still, information from Reddit was creating confusion about the identity of the Boston Marathon bombers as late as Thursday night. Before the FBI revealed that they had identified suspects — one of whom was killed in a firefight with authorities on Thursday — some users on Twitter mistakenly identified two different men mentioned on Reddit as the official suspects in the case, having heard their names spoken on police scanners.

One of the names, that of missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, appeared on a list of trending topics on the social media site Friday as a flood of tweets sharing — and then retracting — those suspicions hit the network.

On a Facebook page dedicated to finding Tripathi, who has been missing since March 16, his family posted a statement saying that the reports caused “a tremendous and painful amount of attention” on the missing man.

Related stories:

Boston bombing photos stir up amateur sleuths

Even online sleuths question the wisdom of crowdsourcing Boston investigation

Backpack Brothers an example of the drawbacks to Internet sleuthing

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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