Germany considers banning wild Facebook parties

Summary:German politicians are arguing over what to do about wild Facebook parties.

Wild Facebook parties tend to occur when a Facebook Event invitation to a typical small gathering is mistakenly posted publicly, and then goes viral. This results in injuries and arrests as hundreds or even thousands show up for a party meant for a handful of people.

A recent wave of these out-of-control Facebook parties has left German officials and politicians trying to figure how to deal with the trend.

"If public safety and order are endangered, then Facebook parties will have to be banned beforehand," Lower Saxony's Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to Deutsche Welle. Schünemann argues that states should apply existing laws consistently and improve their educational work with young people and parents. He recommended the introduction of an "Internet Driving License" in schools that would explain the dangers of Facebook. "Young people often don't realize what they are getting into," he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Minister Ralf Jäger agreed. "If, in advance of an announced Facebook party, there are concrete indications of a danger to the participants or third parties, then it is the duty of the local authorities to ban the party."

Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann warned that a harmless birthday invitation can quickly turn into a "massive security problem." For the host that can sometimes lead to "immense costs," as many simply want to go on a rampage, he claimed. "If there is an investigation into criminal offenses, the initiator should if possible pay for the costs of the police operation," he told the same newspaper, according to The Local.

Other politicians don't see the point of banning the controversial gatherings. "The simple fact that excesses happen on the sidelines of such events does not justify a general ban," Wolfgang Bosbach, the chairman of the domestic affairs committee in parliament, told the daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, according to Spiegel. "There are also riots on the sidelines of football games and demonstrations but that does not mean that we should completely ban them."

Blanket bans would persecute people who have no intention of causing trouble. Parties where there is a clear risk of escalating violence could be banned on a case by case basis, but it would be hard for authorities to predict which Facebook parties would escalate into criminal activity.

In March 2011, an Australian schoolgirl named Jess had to cancel her sweet 16 birthday party after her Facebook invitation went viral and over 200,000 people said they would show up at her house in Chatswood, New South Wales. She was lucky because Facebook made a point to help her out.

Last month, a young girl made the same mistake by posting a public invitation to her 16th birthday party. Around 1,500 to 1,600 uninvited guests turned up to her party in Hamburg, Germany. 100 police officers had to be deployed, and they detained 11 attendees on charges of aggravated battery and property damage. One police officer was injured, as were dozens of people who wore flip-flops and accidentally stepped on shards of glass from broken bottles. Two small fires had to be extinguished.

Shortly after, a spontaneous party in Wuppertal, Germany attracted some 800 guests, 41 of whom were taken into police custody and 16 of whom were injured. Hamburg authorities are currently preparing for a Facebook party planned for September 30 and are expecting an influx of up to 19,000 partygoers.

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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