A 17-year-old Massachusetts high school student went to the police to clear his name on Wednesday after photos of him attending the Boston Marathon with a friend were labeled as suspicious and circulated throughout social media and later by news outlets.
Salah Barhoun, a student at Revere High School near Boston, said he had hoped to run in the marathon but ended up watching it instead, and was shocked when he began seeing images of himself online. The photos were initially featured on 4Chan (which calls itself a "bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images"), and then ran on the front page of the New York Post, accompanied by a report that investigators were trying to identify two male spectators who had been standing near the finish line.
"It's the worst feeling that I can possibly feel. … I'm only 17,” Barhoun said of his reaction.
Barhoun's younger brother, who spoke to ABC News, said the suspicions over Barhoun had made their mother “sick and upset.” "It made her think he had done something wrong," Barhoun’s brother said. "My brother is not the bomber."
The targeting of Barhoun and his companion also provoked outrage on Reddit, where users posted messages urging others to stop sharing photos of the two young men in order to avoid drawing further attention to them.
“Please report any posts regarding personal information on these two, they will be removed and the user will be permanently banned,” Reddit user oops777 wrote.
“We are not waiting for them to be officially cleared, one of the men has contacted the police to try and clear his name,” the user continued. “It's not our job to keep their information out there, people are innocent until proven guilty - not the other way around.”
But other Redditors questioned whether the damage had already been done. “I'm really start to question the existence of this subreddit [sic],” junkit33 wrote in the same thread. “I suppose if not here, it's going to happen somewhere, but this whole thing is dangerous. The country's finest professionals are on the case - if an Internet angry mob cracks the case before them, it's going to be pure dumb luck.”