German minister says Facebook to blame for riot

Tue, Sep 25, 2012, 01:00

GERMANY’s Consumer Protection Minister, Ilse Aigner, a longtime critic of Facebook, has weighed into the aftermath of the riot that wrecked a small Dutch commuter town at the weekend – saying the social network must accept part of the blame for the millions of euro in damage.

Riot police fought running battles with more than 3,000 uninvited party-goers who arrived in Haren, 150 km north-east of Amsterdam, on Saturday night and thrashed the town – after a local teenage girl innocently posted plans for her 16th birthday party on Facebook, and the post went viral.

There’s been controversy in Germany over two viral parties advertised on Facebook this summer. The first was in Backnang, near Stuttgart, in June, where 22,500 people registered and there were clashes with police.

The second was scheduled for the shores of Lake Constance the following month, but was banned in advance. Police cordoned off the beach and made a handful of arrests.

Ms Aigner is well-known in Germany as an outspoken advocate of higher privacy standards on Facebook and other social media networks.

Haren is close to the German border, and asked about the riots, which led to 35 arrests and scores of injuries, she said she wanted Facebook to change its privacy settings to stop private invitations going public.“Because Facebook has not been willing to improve its privacy settings up to now, it must be regarded as partly responsible for what happened.”

Pointing to the destruction and the injuries, she asked: “What has to happen before Facebook takes action?” Last year, Ms Aigner publicly warned her German cabinet colleagues to avoid using Facebook to promote their work, citing “data protection issues”.

The Minister also wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, telling him she was “astonished to discover” that, despite concerns, “Facebook would like to relax data protection regulations on the network even further.” In Haren, unofficial estimates put the cost of the damage at several million euro.

Justice Minister, Ivo Opstelten, said the destruction was “completely unacceptable” and he expected police to make many more arrests once they had examined video footage from up to 20 cameras.