As a result of the terrible mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut – the immediate question was who had gunned down nearly thirty people, most of them children, before taking his own life.
Early media reports suggested that the shooter was around twenty-year-old from Newtown named Ryan Lanza. A Facebook profile fitting the description was easily accessible and social media users to professional reporters at once assumed that they had found the gunman who committed the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
BuzzFeed, Mediaite, Gawker, and Fox News speculated that the account belonged to the shooter. Journalists from Slate, Huffington Post, CNN, and other news organizations tweeted links to the Facebook profile.
However, it was the wrong guy. Press reports now have identified the shooter as Adam Lanza – Ryan Lanza’s brother.
Ryan Lanza in response wrote on his Facebook account, “Fuck You CNN, it wasn’t me!”
Consequently, many profiles named ‘Ryan Lanza’ started popping up on Facebook and people with the same name on twitter experienced a colossal rise in their followers.
The icing on the cake was – the many pages on Facebook that slurred insults towards Ryan Lanza and the increasing number of hate pages devoted to Lanza condemning him.
According to the Associated Press, “a law enforcement official mistakenly transposed the brothers’ first names.” The result was that, for a few brief hours in the middle of the day, based on press speculation about the suspect’s identity, social media users brought out the digital equivalent of pitchforks and torches, vilifying the alleged shooter’s brother and haranguing Ryan Lanzas all across the intertubes.
Lanza at first decided to take down his Facebook page as a result – but later put it back up.