How did a quiet 16th birthday celebration turn into a full-scale riot? Read this to find out what happened when a Dutch teenager made a Facebook error.


The Facebook party that became a riot

It began as a plan for a very normal 16th birthday party. Merthe Weusthuis wanted a quiet celebration with a small group of friends in her family home in the small Dutch town of Haren. Like many teenagers, she decided to send out invitations via a social network site. But Merthe made one big mistake: she used open-access settings on Facebook, so it wasn’t just her friends who could see details of the event, lots of strangers could too.

The number of invitation acceptances quickly snowballed into an avalanche. Not marking the event as ‘private’ meant the electronic invitation was eventually seen by 240,000 people, of whom 30,000 confirmed online that they planned to attend. To make matters worse, an unauthorised campaign was launched to promote the party by means of a dedicated website and Twitter account, which received hundreds of thousands of hits. The party become known as ‘Project X Haren’ after the 2012 American film Project X in which three high school students throw a birthday party that spins out of control. Video trailers for Merthe’s party were produced, with scenes from Project X edited in, and they were posted on YouTube. T-shirts featuring Merthe’s face were also made, all without her knowledge or consent.

Even after Merthe’s parents had cancelled the party, the publicity didn’t stop. Local media reported on the forthcoming event and teenagers turned up to have their pictures taken outside the Weusthuis family home. On the evening the party was to have taken place, about 5,000 teenagers began gathering in Haren, many outside the Weusthuis house. When it became clear that there was nothing to gatecrash, violence broke out and 500 riot police equipped with helmets, shields and batons were brought in to control the crowd. Shops in the centre of Haren were vandalised and looted, journalists were attacked, cars were set on fire or overturned and street signs and lamp posts were damaged.

However, Facebook was also involved in the clean-up effort in the days after the riot. A group called ‘Project Clean-X Haren’ was set up to gather and organise volunteers. Another group named ‘Suspect-X Haren’ was created to help police identify and arrest the rioters by sharing photos and videos of the event.

A number of other 'Facebook parties’ have spiralled out of control, including the 16th birthday party of British teenager Bradley McAnulty in April 2012. Bradley had not posted details of the event on the internet, and had been careful to ask his friends not to, but somehow the news leaked out and appeared on Blackberry Messenger as well as Facebook. More than 400 gatecrashers invaded his family home in Poole, Dorset, causing extensive damage.

Total votes: 218
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Is Facebook a good way to organise a party? Why or why not?
Are you careful with your privacy settings on social network sites?


Youjiro's picture
Youjiro 7 February, 2019 - 09:36

I think good way I if know all of acquaintance on the facebook. Reason is organize party using facebook is easiest way I use ever.usage of social media is most common ,people use that as long as they can.disadvantage of using facebook is security and dishonest person.One of my favourite social media is meet up. that is useful enjoy hobby.That is like a social media ,people can attend same hobby group whenever group member organize party.

0 users have voted.
SLMT's picture
SLMT 9 April, 2018 - 09:07

I think Facebook is not not a good way to organise a party.However you make sure it is private,Technology these days can make everything possible.Even the password of Facebook account can be hacked these days.Last week,a private Facebook group message of famous actors and actresses is leaked . They were having a gossip about the most famous director and actor.They are being more and more popular because of their gossip chat leaked out.Everything is untrustworthy .That’s why, I always change my Facebook’s password once a month.Protecting is more efficient than curing .

2 users have voted.
QueenPinkBluebel's picture
QueenPinkBluebel 3 August, 2017 - 15:04

I never organize a party with friends because I prefer to celebrate my birthday with my family. And if one day I have to invite my friends, I won't use a social media like Facebook because it's insecure especially if you invite friends that you don't trust completely trust.

17 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 2 March, 2016 - 02:32

Aha! 'The Fakebook Party' seems to be pretty fun!!
Because the party will be like a treasure hunting or playing cards of concentration!
I mean, it'll be fun to look around people and find someone who matches the face with those on their Facebook page!
The other day, when I met my acquaintance after a few years, I learned there was a big gap between the real and uploaded pics.
Then I felt like as if I met someone I don't know… ;-|
People nowadays are busy for making fake friends…?? ☆

61 users have voted.
Laurelinde's picture
Laurelinde 24 February, 2016 - 15:29

Perhaps, I won't be able to give much detailed answer, because I'm rather a digital immigrant. I almost never use social media sites, so I don't know very much about their advantages and disadvantages. Though I have a profile on Russian site Vkontakte, I don't use it regularly and prefer live communication with people. That's why if I needed to inform my friends of the coming party, I would just called them on the phone or sent e-mail messages. For me, if using such sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. is so dangerous, it is better to contact people in other ways. Privacy should be paid a great attention!

61 users have voted.
gobratiwat's picture
gobratiwat 27 January, 2016 - 07:45

I think Facebook isn't a good way to organise a party because a lot of information are in publicity, even if you think that you're good protected, you aren't. Privacy on social network sites isn't so much protected.
Well I think I'm protected good. I don't use so much social sites so mine privacy isn't that known on internet. :)

59 users have voted.
Macaque's picture
Macaque 14 November, 2015 - 20:04

I think Facebook is a bad way to organise a party or a gathering. If it's true that Merthe wanted to call only a couple of friends, why was it a problem to tell them all individualy? As for me, I'm very careful about posting details on Facebook, mostly because my parents are very strict when it comes to social media.

60 users have voted.
donya123's picture
donya123 20 October, 2015 - 19:40

well I think its good idea to organise a party through fb, if you carefully think about privacy. It would be easier to find out how many friends are coming to your party and how they like the party be.

54 users have voted.
Tony2003's picture
Tony2003 19 October, 2015 - 14:00

Really though,i think this is the worst idea ever since I used Facebook.But really if you have less friend in Facebook,you will be totally fine

61 users have voted.
Hello88's picture
Hello88 3 October, 2015 - 13:51

I believe that Facebook is a great way to organise a party. You tell your friends and they instantly agree or disagree with the idea. Also, the process doesn’t take much time and it’s free. However, the information about the party can be leaked out but it all depends on the person who is using Facebook.
I’m careful with my privacy settings on social network sites. I don’t use many and I never post details on public. I’m protected and I’m always aware of the situation.

61 users have voted.
Asilabee's picture
Asilabee 23 August, 2015 - 17:34

No, I don't think so . because the information could be leaked out.
Unfortunately I'm not careful i post every details on public.

54 users have voted.
Alexander111's picture
Alexander111 18 August, 2015 - 04:57

so far i don't have facebook

did any one have seen fakebook, it's reallllllllllyyyyyy ffffffffffffffunny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

61 users have voted.
1005421's picture
1005421 3 July, 2016 - 16:31

LOL, I'm Dutch and I followed the whole thing. Still there are people wanting to do it over :(

60 users have voted.
Lif's picture
Lif 26 September, 2014 - 19:38

Facebook it is ok. It depends on the person who is using it. If someone is not so carefull, it will happen something unpleasant .

60 users have voted.
Synteck's picture
Synteck 3 September, 2014 - 16:19

Probably turned out your event in Facebook is a good way to organise a party, but make sure you are sending out to your corresponding guests. Not marking as a private event in Facebook is a easy way for broke out your event. I wasn't careful in my past publications but now I'm trying to prevent to leak out my information in privacy settings.

55 users have voted.
AnaB's picture
AnaB 9 June, 2014 - 16:06

I think Facebook isn't a good way to organise a party because a lot of information are in publicity, even if you think that you're good protected, you aren't. Privacy on social network sites isn't so much protected.
Well I think I'm protected good. I don't use so much social sites so mine privacy isn't that known on internet. :)

58 users have voted.