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Twitter Helps Track Down Suspects In Brutal Beating

After police in Philadelphia released footage of suspects in an anti-gay attack, Twitter users took it upon themselves to track down the perps.
Posted at 9:40 PM, Sep 17, 2014

Under the right circumstances, Twitter can be more than just a platform to complain about first-world problems. 

Case in point: after two men were brutally attacked in Philadelphia last week, police disseminated a video on YouTube showing the suspects. That video made its way to Twitter and lighting-fast detective work ensued.  

Here's the video released by Philadelphia Police. It's unclear if the security footage was captured before or after the incident, which WCAU further explains

"The victims were walking ... when they were confronted by at least a dozen men and women. They say someone in the group asked whether they were a couple and when they answered 'yes,' they were viciously attacked."

According to a police statement, the suspects also stole a bag from one of the victims. They then fled the scene after authorities showed up. Both victims were then transported to the hospital, one "was treated for fractures and deep lacerations to his face requiring surgery and his jaw wired shut." 

So, how did Twitter come into play? According to outlets tracking down the suspects all started with this tweet from user Greg Bennett who sent out a link to an article about the incident.

Then, according to Bennett, a friend of a friend saw the tweet and sent him this picture — which looks a lot like the group of people captured in the security footage. 

It was then that another user retweeted the image Bennett found, writing, "C'mon YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE. If you don't wanna tell the cops, tell me. I'll handle it." 

And he did. From there a number of users responded identifying the restaurant where the group picture was taken. 

The user, FanSince09, then used Facebook's Graph Search feature to find out who checked in at that restaurant on the night of the assault. 

A writer for The Washington Post calls Graph Search a powerful tool, but also admits, "In terms of actual computing skill or detective work, this particular investigation wasn’t technically that hard to do."

The feature allows users to narrow down the search of a person to location, age range, recent check-ins and other information you probably don't even know is available. A bit creepy, but police admit the thorough tool played a huge role in the investigation. 

After the social media detectives successfully identified a few of the suspects, Joseph Murray with the Philadelphia Police Department wrote on his account, "This is what makes my job easy. Sure, it's up to me to make the arrest but we are all in this together. ...  I will take a couple thousand Twitter detectives over any one real detective any day."

No arrests have been made yet according to local sources, but WCAU reports some of the suspects in question were expected to turn themselves in Wednesday. 

This video includes an image from Getty Images.