Ronny Lam


Project X Haren Viral Party Degenerates Into a Riot


Several thousand youngsters turned up in the village of 18,000 people on Friday evening after a girl’s 16th birthday party, announced on Facebook, went viral and became a mass hype.

Let’s face it, this girl made a mistake. She announced a party on Facebook and forgot to check the private checkbox. One can easily say that this is the reason for the riots in Haren, but that is not the case.

In my opinion Facebook is the beginning of the fault here. One of the reasons I am not on Facebook and why I am discouraging others to do it is Mark Zuckerberg’s lack for privacy. The default setting in Facebook is wide open. And when new features are introduced they get introduced with public settings. The first thing a Facebook user should do is restrict a lot of those settings. Communication should be private by default and public when suitable.

Because of this mistake many people got invited, even people not at all related to the girl. These strangers invited others and so on. The thing went viral, even when the girl corrected her mistake. The result was 30.000 people planning to go to Haren.

Nothing could stop those party-flocks anymore to go to Haren. They were immune to news, DJ’s and official communications. The mayor was not planning an alternative to the party and hopes he could stop it by removing the street sign “Stationstraat”.

The result was around 4000 party-animals in the streets of Haren, with lots of Beer. But there were also real animals involved not interested in a party, only in riots. In the end the Police could stop the riots, but not after a lot of damage had been done, several people wounded and several people arrested.

Could this have been stopped? Was it under-estimated? I think one of the lessons learned here, acknowledged by the Police, is to watch the social media more intensive. All the signals off what was bound to happen were there. The only thing was that they were being ignored. This social media thing is very powerful and can only be handled by social media itself. In this case you need real strong community managers, something the Police really has to develop.

Some reactions, like the one from Joanna:

The girl who started this mess because of her inability of using social network should be held responsible for at least part of the damage, Youngsters need to learn about taking responsabilities also about what they post on internet.

It is true that the girl started it, but it was out of her influence within hours. She could not have overseen the whole consequence.

The reaction from [Dirk]{1] is a lot better:

Luckily the girl was not to blame. If something explodes it’s due to media attention or ill-tempered friends of her that decided to invite other friends. Not the fact that a girl has not used a checkbox.

But it’s not even about the fact that she didn’t place a checkbox, if word gets out and there is a happening with bored mobs, this will always happen. When people decided to create a Facebook page for project x, and things go viral then it’s all out of the hands of this girl.

Hopefully this girl won’t feel bad about this, we support you! (Kop op meid!) Don’t pay attention to these people venting their resentment towards social media to you.

Not confirmed, but the reaction from Sven explains a lot:

If you actually look at who created the event Project X Haren,then you will see that it was not the girls birthday page at all, it was actually 2 people from out of the country. One from New Zealand and the other from Germany, who of which had a picture of Hitler on his wall

Concluding with Stevie who actually underwrites my Facebook point:

Perhaps instead of blaming the girl who accidently forgot to make an event private, we should be blaming the people who turn this into a mob. Or perhaps even facebook for allowing an event to be made public without notifiying or warning the creator?

I myself am ashamed for living in this country where one little omission of a check mark can ruin a small peaceful city like Haren.