TAMWORTH police have warned party hosts of the risks posed by social media in the wake of at least one New Year’s Eve bash invitation that went “viral” at one stage and threatened to run out of control.
The warning came after a Kootingal party was plastered all over Facebook, with reports of more than 2500 invitations and social media chat that suggested hundreds were heading to the Mulla Creek Rd party.
Police spent some time on Monday monitoring the social media conversations. Kootingal and Tamworth police even attended the event several times.
At one stage social media suggested groups of young men were fighting with baseball bats, but some who attended the party say they didn’t see any evidence of anything rowdy or reckless.
But with sites such as Facebook and Twitter eclipsing more traditional methods of invitation, police have warned that a small party can very quickly turn into a big problem for partygoers and police alike.
A Tamworth mother and her teenage daughter yesterday said the Kootingal party was nothing like the Facebook previews suggested. It was organised by a Tamworth teen and only about 300 attended, paying a gold-coin donation to subsidise the cost of hiring a portable toilet for the rural property.
The teenage girl said most of the partygoers were students or ex-students of Tamworth schools, and many knew each other and knew who was going beforehand.
The girl said most were aged about 18 or 19, and she had not witnessed anything uncontrollable or violent that night.
But Oxley Local Area Command Inspector Stuart Campbell said social media could be a “double-edged sword” for party hosts.
“Social media can very quickly spread the word to people that you do want at a gathering, and it also spreads the word to those you don’t want there,” Inspector Campbell said.
“Too many guests can lead to parties getting out of control quickly.”
Inspector Campbell said the best example was that of Melbourne teenager Corey Worthington, who gained notoriety after having more than 500 guests gate-crash a party held at his parents’ house in 2008.
An open invitation on the teen’s MySpace page led to the unwanted guests, who caused more than $20,000 of damage to neighbours’ houses and cars, and the riot squad being called in to shut the party down.
“It’s the perfect example of what can go wrong,” Inspector Campbell said.
“Someone puts an invite on social media with 50 guests, the invite goes viral and suddenly there’s more guests than the host can handle.”
He said the best way to avoid unwanted guests was to keep guest lists and invitations private, and limit invitations to a manageable number.
“If unwanted guests start showing up, the best thing to do is to contact police,” Inspector Campbell said.