Examples of internet detective squads
July 3, 2015 2:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of internet amateur detecting and/or exposing crimes, frauds, etc., ideally through fora, but also blogs or mailing lists. For example, MeFi's Kaycee Nicole work, or (as a negative example) Reddit's misplaced accusation in the Boston Bombing. The more direct links you can provide, the better.
posted by klangklangston to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

Recent Buzzfeed piece on internet detectives trying to solve a small town murder.
posted by eponym at 3:10 PM on July 3, 2015

Not a crime exactly, but an investigation:
The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

China specialist blogger at East South West North has posted on "human flesh search engines" cases in the past. Examples:
(August 25, 2008) An Incident On A Long-distance Bus
A case of sexual assault on a bus became an Internet human flesh search for the perpetrators, but the netizens who tried to follow the bus were assaulted by the bus workers.

(June 3, 2008) The Case of Fan Xiaohua
Fan Xiaohua (范小华) is suspected of misappropriation of a disaster relief tent and aggravated personal assault in Mianyang city, but the Chinese human flesh search engines went after Communist Youth League secretary Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) in Mianzhu city instead.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:22 PM on July 3, 2015

Response by poster: These are all great! Keep them coming!
posted by klangklangston at 3:28 PM on July 3, 2015

Metafilter users helped Russian women who may have been about to fall into a trafficking scam.
posted by matildaben at 4:02 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Life and Death of Jesse James. Friends realize that the rancher one of them has fallen in love with online is a fictional creation. The two met on a Deadwood message board.
posted by cirocco at 4:15 PM on July 3, 2015

Google Bronzi + essential baby.

Bronzi was a member of this Australian mum's forum. Over the course of about 2 years, she had twins that died of cancer or something, then she had trouble conceiving, then she fell pregnant and had an emergency Caesarian and I think lost that baby too. Over the years she got a lot of sympathy but when she suddenly disappeared, people from essential baby -"friends"- started looking for her. She even had other accounts where she posed as Friends who had seen her IRL. Someone found that the pictures of her twins were taken from someone else's blog. It all unravelled pretty quickly from there and it came out that it was all lies. This was march 2009. You'll see lots of sympathy posts to/about her before that, but some stuff after (like her diary) have been removed. She had a blog, you might be able to find a cached copy.

Some of the essential baby forum pages aren't available unless you log in but it's free to sign up.
posted by stellathon at 4:25 PM on July 3, 2015

The Serial subreddit has taken the case from the podcast and run with it. They have uncovered and analyzed a lot of evidence that wasn't mentioned in the show.
posted by wsquared at 5:17 PM on July 3, 2015

People on Twitter helped find the suspects involved in a gay bashing in Philadelphia.
posted by Jem and the Hooligans at 5:30 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

There was mefi's own u.n. owen.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:50 PM on July 3, 2015

There are quite a number of groups and forums that go about exposing stolen valor cases or folks pretending to be SEAL veterans (to just pick a couple of the top google hits).
posted by bunyip at 7:04 PM on July 3, 2015

Folks at RealScam.com and BehindMLM.com routinely expose scams years before they were nailed by the authorities. We even have a CG enlisted claimed to be navy LCDR and a JAG to boot. ;) Among other scams.
posted by kschang at 11:22 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Grateful Doe
A subreddit dedicated to matching unidentified bodies and missing persons.
posted by Melsky at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Those fora are interesting and I'll dig into them forthwith, but are there any specific links you can share with interesting cases they've dug into?
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2015

There are various online communities attempting to solve the notorious Tamam Shud case, one of which is the Tamam Shud blog. There's also this Reddit AMA from last year with more examples of amateur sleuthing and research volunteering.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Reddit Bureau of Investigation. Here's some things they take credit for solving. Mostly small stuff. but hopefully useful to those who need it.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 8:01 PM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know much about this case, but I just stumbled across the story of Boulder Jane Doe, who was identified after fifty years by an amateur sleuth named Silvia Pettem with help from the internet.

Tent Girl was also identified by an amateur sleuth who made use of the internet.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 8:15 PM on July 8, 2015

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