The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 15, 2012

Botched ID of shooter goes viral, to brother's horror


If Lanza's goal was to proclaim his innocence to the world, and to slow the trigger fingers of journalists and others tweeting his Facebook profile, it worked. A digital editor here at The Washington Post sent out a newsroom-wide message at 2:40 p.m. cautioning that Ryan Lanza may not be the shooter and citing the debate that had sprung up about his Facebook page. A screen grab of Lanza's protests of innocence, apparently circulated by a friend of his, was included.

Facebook soon issued a statement: ""We are deeply saddened by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and our sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of the victims.Out of respect for those involved, and as this is an active law enforcement investigation, we are declining to comment further at this time."

Soon, stories were being updated to express uncertainty about the shooter's identity. Then they were updated again to say that it was Adam Lanza, not Ryan, who was the real suspect.

A new picture of Ryan Lanza soon appeared, shared widely on Twitter, showing him stepping into a police car, his eyes downcast behind wire-rimmed glasses, for questioning about whatever he might know about his brother's actions.

The explosion of personal information about Ryan Lanza troubled privacy experts. His Facebook page appeared on Google searches for his name, and though not all of his personal information necessarily was public, large amounts were, including the identities of all of his Facebook "friends."

"The Googles and the Facebooks are kind of leading a global crusade to end privacy as a concept, without even thinking about it," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

On screen grabs of Lanza's Facebook page circulating on the Internet on Friday evening — presumably made before the page was shut down — several of his friends expressed anger at both the unfounded accusations and against the social network itself. One referred to founder Mark Zuckerberg with an obscenity before saying, "make us all unsearchable, i don't need phone calls at the office."

Lanza's last known update expressed his anger toward CNN, which had reported allegations that he was a killer, before saying one last time, "it wasn't me."

Soon the world would believe him.

Text Only