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Roughly 30 months later, the paradigm seems to have shifted.The rise of the vigilante investigation now seems undergirded by the internet-utopian idea that any and all information should be free and that those with the digital means to procure that information should be compelled to expose it.
They're players in nearly ever major internet scandal of 2014: the online manhunt for Bryan Hamade, the man believed to have leaked Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos and sparked "The Fappening"; the sexual-harassing, doxxing, ethics crusading online Hydra behind Gamer Gate; the cold-case internet sleuthing inside the Serial podcast subreddit (which had 24,943 subscribers as of this writing); and, most recently, the troubling outing of the alleged victim behind Rolling Stone's now-bungled UVA campus rape story by a former writer turned internet troll.
Citizen journalism was one of the great dreams of the mid-2000s internet.
Just as blogs had given anyone with an internet connection and a keyboard a platform, media companies like AOL and CNN hoped that cell phones and high-speed internet would transform an army of private citizens and online hobbyists into freelance, oftentimes pro bono writers, videographers, and reporters.
Working fast, but carefully, Jones found a Reddit post from a user who'd been shot that night and had posted a photo of his wounds, beating local and national media to the story hour after hour.
In the hours and days after Aurora, media reporters — myself included — spoke to Jones and Reddit about this seemingly new style of citizen journalism, fueled by social media and aided by an intimate familiarity with news cycles and the internet.
As is usually the case in the immediate moments following a tragedy, local news outlets were doing most of the groundwork before the national correspondents and cable networks descended.