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.

Reading

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.

Discussion

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

Comments

majopc1's picture
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majopc1 7 October, 2019 - 18:32

I agree with you, I think whatsapp is the best option to organize an event because you have the choice to invite the people you want and be careful that no one you don’t like go to, I’ve never had a problem with it.

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A01284908's picture
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A01284908 24 September, 2019 - 17:26

In my opinion I think that Facebook is not a secure website where you can organize a party because it can easily be spread over the network because they can share the post with your friends and strangers and for this type of event you share very important personal data to strangers, such as your address, your cell phone, name, etc. If you are going to organize a party on Facebook, do it at your own risk, carefully and with great caution.

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A01284367's picture
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A01284367 23 September, 2019 - 22:06

I would rather use social media, because everyone use it now days, and you can always use a list and security if you don't want unexpected visitors, is easy.

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AlanBach's picture
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AlanBach 8 October, 2019 - 05:51

I agree with you to use a list to have more control of the people who enter and have greater security who enters and who sees your information

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A01284958's picture
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A01284958 23 September, 2019 - 21:41

I believe Facebook is a great way to organize a party, or any event you want to plan. You can just put all the information required to assist to the event, and then invite your friends. Facebook sends them a notification, and they determine if they will be able to go, if they can't, or if they haven't decided yet. No matter if your event is small, or very big, Facebook Events can handle it in a very efficient way.
Yes i am careful with my privacy in social media.

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A01285054's picture
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A01285054 23 September, 2019 - 21:28

I think that those people who caused this disorder should be aware of what they did, accept the consequences and avoid having more problems.

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AlanBach's picture
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AlanBach 8 October, 2019 - 05:52

I agree with you that you have to assume the consequences and responsibility, even so you will have problems with the police or with your parents

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A01284085's picture
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A01284085 23 September, 2019 - 21:26

Being a teenager and having parties is completely normal, however it's common in these parties to get out of control. One of the ways Merthe could stop the caos were to deleted the invitation or cancell the party in my opinion

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A01284652's picture
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A01284652 23 September, 2019 - 21:26

If you know how to protect your information, organizing a party in Facebook is not a bad idea but it is not the best one. In Facebook, or any social media, the information of the event and your personal information could became public. I always try to be careful with my privacy since I don´t post personal information or make an event on social media.

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a01284478's picture
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a01284478 23 September, 2019 - 21:25

I think it is a good way to organize a party because it is easier the problem is that the party can reach more people and so everyone who wants to attend

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A01283952's picture
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A01283952 23 September, 2019 - 21:24

yes, organize a party via facebook is allowed and it makes the party easier to organize,and change status, report changes. But it depends for each person, and of course being carefull with the privacy settings of your own account and for the event.

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A01284819's picture
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A01284819 23 September, 2019 - 21:18

This article gave me the awareness of how a simple invitation in the social media could cause multiple huge accidents. I also feel bad for Merthe Weusthuis becuase she just wanted to organize a birthday party, but her little mistake of not sending the invitation post as a private post, caused the party to be a public one, which cause accidents like rioters and policemen fighting, cars catching on fire, etc. I hope this doesn´t happen to me, I don´t use Facebook anyways, but by any means I´ll be careful on using social media.

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A01284363's picture
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A01284363 23 September, 2019 - 21:16

I consider that it is an easy way to organize a party but you need to be careful so it doesn't spread the important information to people you don't know to prevent things like the text happen to you.

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Youjiro's picture
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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.

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A01284363 23 September, 2019 - 21:18

It is great that you consider that there are groups that organize big events and the way it spreads it is okay when it is planned to be a big event.

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SLMT's picture
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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 .

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A01284819's picture
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A01284819 23 September, 2019 - 21:27

I agree with your opinion because I am also aware of how social media can cause multiple problems like this, so I think we should personally invate other people, what I mean by the word "personally", I´m talking about a one to one conversation, whether it´s face to face or by message.

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arielthein's picture
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arielthein 22 June, 2019 - 08:48

I agree. Nowadays, if you use social media, there is a great risk of private information leaking out. I don't use social media, but my friends do, and I have to keep reminding them to be careful.

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