A New South Wales teen says she has called in the police after her Facebook birthday party invite went viral with more than 175,000 people threatening to show up.
The 15-year-old’s home and mobile phones have been bombarded with calls and text messages from strangers because she had put her mobile number on a Facebook event birthday party invite that was made publicly available.
Her home address was also listed, which was how many uncovered her home telephone number, she said.
‘Never doing this again’
Not identifying the girl to prevent further publicity of the event, this website spoke to her yesterday via Facebook before she decided to deactivate her profile.
“I’m never doing this again,” she said. “I’m so scared and now I have the police called.”
On the Facebook invite, the girl said she didn’t have enough time to invite everyone. She therefore asked for people, if they knew someone that might like to go, to invite them on her behalf.
She also said that the event was going to be an “open house” party as long as it didn’t “get out of hand”. She told this website that she did this because only two people showed up to the last party she held.
Event goes viral
But the event invite spread rapidly on the internet to thousands and so she quickly shut it down. However, shortly after doing so it was recreated by an impostor, the girl said, copying the information from the original invite and pasting it onto a fake one.
The fake Facebook event created by that impostor (whose identity is unknown) is the one which has now gone even more viral than her original one, which attracted just a few thousand rather than a few hundred thousand.
Yesterday morning about 30,000 were listed to attend and by late yesterday evening more than 175,000.
This website couldn’t make contact with her parents all of yesterday but she said her mother and father knew about the party she was going to hold but did not know that it was going to be an “open house” party.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph did, however, manage to get in contact with her father, who said his daughter was “an innocent victim” who intended to invite just “a few friends” but did not know how to use the privacy settings on Facebook correctly.
This website verified the girl’s identity after she added the author of this report as a friend on Facebook. It was clear her account was not a fake and had not been set up recently as it had a history of posts and photos that extended back to early last year. But by late yesterday afternoon it appeared to have been shut down.
Before it was shut down, the girl told people on the fake Facebook event invite circling the web with hundreds of thousands indicating their attendance that police had been called in to help.
NSW Police media yesterday declined to comment on the matter. Instead, it referred to information on safe parties available at the mynite.com.au website.
Despite this, a police inspector told The Daily Telegraph that there would be police intervention on the matter. After being contacted by this website, the girl’s local police station said it was aware of the situation.
The girl’s birthday party was due to be held next weekend. One user of the Facebook site set up another event that aimed to deter people from the girl’s house. As of yesterday evening it had just over 6000 attending it. Asked if the girl would still be having her sixteenth birthday party, she said: “I won’t, trust me”.
Cyber safety expert Sysan McLean said she hoped that police were “actually doing something about [the event]” but said that the girl needed to “take some control” and get onto Facebook and report the impostor profile that had set up the fake event. “That is the first thing she needs to do,” she said.
“That’s her obligation to do that. Then the police, if they’ve been informed about it, they would be very ill-advised to ignore it … because if all hell breaks loose and there’s a riot and they were informed and failed to act, well, I wouldn’t like to be the person who made that decision”.
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time a Facebook event invite has gone viral on the web in Australia.
Corey Worthington was one teen who held a massive party with the help of MySpace. About 500 teenagers spilled on to the streets, damaging property and throwing projectiles at police cars. There was about a $20,000 damage bill.
Other events, such as the one held by prankster David Thorne, had about 60,000 people listing their intention to attend “Kate’s Party” in April last year. That party was a fake and did not list an address, which made it hard for anyone to show up.
Another, spurred by an apparent hacking of a Queensland boy’s Facebook account, had about 4000 people responding to attend. That party did have an address and local police said that they would be on hand to make sure would-be partygoers did not disturb the people living at the address.
A British teenager also had her 15th birthday party cancelled after she accidentally invited 21,000 guests.
A growing trend
Julian Cole, digital strategist at social media agency The Conscience Organisation, said he saw event invites going viral as a growing trend online, “especially amongst the teen audience for Facebook”.
“It is the new viral video,” he said. “On Facebook 13-17 years olds like a substantial number of Pages and events in comparison to other ages groups. They are always looking to see what their friends will be attending in terms of events as well.
“This makes it the perfect environment for jokes likes these to spread like wildfire through Facebook. They are the new inside joke and we will only see pranks/jokes like these increase as Facebook goes on”.
He said the worry for the police was “the number of teens who are actually bored and will want to go along and meet other teens who will turn up to these parties”.