First Reactions

Connecticut massacre suspect: How the media IDed the wrong guy [Updated]

The lesson: Tweet, but verify

As the country reels in the wake of a horrifying school shooting in Connecticut that left a reported 20 children and 6 adults dead, people all over the nation are searching for answers. And as they do, many details of this terrible tragedy are quickly coming to light.

For instance, on Twitter, CNN reported that the name of the alleged shooter is Ryan Lanza. (The New York Post reports that the shooter is actually Adam Lanza, Ryan's brother.)

CNN's @susancandiotti reports the suspect is Ryan Lanza and is in his 20s. The latest on @cnn TV and our live blog: on.cnn.com/WbG4H9

— CNN (@CNN) December 14, 2012

Inevitably, people flocked to Facebook to find out more about Ryan Lanza. A profile belonging to a man with the same name — from Hoboken, New Jersey (and originally from Newtown, Connecticut) — quickly emerged. A link to his profile spread virally over Twitter.

The only problem? It was apparently the wrong guy.

This is a screen grab of Facebook status updates. It was reportedly nabbed by one of the user's real-life friends:

And here is Ryan Lanza's Facebook profile picture unfortunately splashed across the Fox News homepage.

A case of mistaken identity? Perhaps. But there's a broader lesson to be learned her. Kashmir Hill, a privacy blogger at Forbes, put it best long before retractions were flying around:

First thing many people want to do is find the shooter's Facebook profile. Plz do not publicize it until you're sure it's the right person.

— Kashmir Hill (@kashhill) December 14, 2012

Update 4:08 p.m. EST: The New York Times is now reporting that law enforcement officials have identified the shooter as Adam Lanza. His brother, Ryan Lanza, has been been brought in for questioning. Yet another reminder to be careful before you identify a mass shooting suspect...

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