Sunil Tripathi has been missing since 16 March (

Reddit has made an official apology after its users wrongly identified a number of people as suspects during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

The online community said it will be looking at what happened in the wake of the bombings to ensure that, in the future, it does "everything we can to help and not hinder crisis situations".

After the marathon, users took to the internet to try to identify the suspects after the FBI issued their pictures - users on the subReddit 'FindBostonBombers' tried to list and locate a number of 'suspicious' people and forwarded the information to the police.

Those accused included Mike Mulugeta and Sunil Tripathi, a student from Brown University who has been missing since the middle of March. Online users 'confirmed' the identity of these two men, saying their names were mentioned on the police scanner.

Tripathi's name was widely circulated on Twitter and his family had to temporarily suspend the Facebook page they set up to help find him.

Apologising for reddit users, general manger Erik Martin wrote: "After some reflection we want to share our thoughts about the reddit activity during the recent crisis in Boston.

"During the tragedy and the aftermath, people found many different avenues to help on reddit. The vast majority of these activities were positive. They provided a way for people to stay informed, as well as a place to just discuss, cope, and try to make sense of what happened.

Reddit issues formal apology for "witch hunt" for boston bombers

"However, though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fuelled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiralled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened."

Martin said reddit has apologised privately to the Tripathi family but it wanted to say sorry publicly "for the pain they have had to endure".

"We hope that this painful event will be channelled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Tripathi family and their search."

The company also noted that it changed its policy a number of years ago banning personal information from the site in order to prevent this type of incident.

"We hoped that the crowd sourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong.

"The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the types of vindictive internet witch hunts our no-personal-information rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different.

"After this week, which showed the best and worst of reddit's potential, we hope that Boston will also be where reddit learns to be sensitive of its own power."

Sangeeta Tripathi, Sunil's elder sister, said their efforts to find her brother have "redoubled" since the incident.

"Sunil has a kind, gentle soul, and all family and friends wish is that he is found safe and well," she said.