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Social Media Fueled Rumors Leading To Mall Flash Mob

12/28/2011

Nearly everyone uses social media to some degree. Stunning statistics can be found that seem to bear out that statement. For example, each Facebook user spends an average of 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site. And, more than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices.

It appears these two statistics combined with rumors of a “concert or performance” by rappers Lil Wayne and Drake at the Mall of America last Monday are at the root of the melee that occurred when 200 or so teens clashed in the mall’s food court.

Flash mobs have been largely associated with humorous or group dance events. Not so much any more. Now “flash robs”, where large groups are organized via Facebook and Twitter to suddenly rob and create havoc, are coming into vogue and it is not a good thing.

The challenge for many of us on the sidelines is the balancing act between free speech and intervention when violence impends. Cleveland’s City Council attempted to make it illegal to use social media to organize a violent flash mob, but concerns about constitutionality led the mayor to veto it.

Social media is a powerful form of communication and interaction. It has value for individuals and businesses alike. It would be unfortunate if social media receives an enormous black eye as a result of the activities of a few individuals. But it wouldn’t be the first time that something designed for good has taken a darker turn.

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