(CBS) RADNOR, Pa. - False speculation on social media that missing Brown University student Sunil Tripathi was one of the Boston Marathon bombers has caused even more pain for his family, CBS Philly reports.
After the FBI released photos on Thursday of two men suspected in the marathon bombings, it was speculated online that one of the suspects resembled Tripathi, a 22-year-old student who disappeared from Brown University's Providence, R.I. campus on March 16, 2013.
The conjecture went viral and reporters arrived at the Tripathi family home in Radnor, Pa. during the early morning hours on Friday.
"It's just been a very difficult time," Sangeeta Tripathi, Sunil's sister told CBS Philly. "And it's been very hard to see the real ugly side of viral social media and how many people will publish information that's completely unsubstantiated."
Sangeeta Tripathi says she wishes the energy spent on spreading false information online could be directed toward helping to find her missing brother.
Reddit, an online link-sharing community which featured posts speculating Sunil Tripathi's connection to the Boston bombing, posted an apology to the Tripathi family on Friday.
"The downside of instant journalism is that we sometimes get things wrong. And sometimes media outlets can take this false information and run with it," the post on Reddit says.
On a Facebook page titled "Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi," the Tripathi family reportedly wrote, "A tremendous and painful amount of attention has been cast on our beloved Sunil Tripathi in the past twelve hours. We have known unequivocally all along that neither individual suspected as responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings was Sunil."