Thomas Boeschoten is a Dutch new media researcher, currently in Utrecht University’s New Media & Digital Culture program and involved with the Utrecht Data School. He was part of a committee that was formed after the 2011 riots in Haren, following a widely distributed announcement of a party there that originated on Facebook. In his talk at the Unlike Us #3 conference, Boeschoten gave an overview of his work within this committee and the findings of their investigation.
The party, dubbed “Project X Haren”, originally started as a Sweet Sixteen birthday celebration for a Dutch girl named Merte. As is often the case, she created an event on Facebook to invite her friends, and made it easy for friends to help inviting the right people by setting the event to be publicly visible and open to outside invitations. However, it quickly went viral – people started inviting strangers and thousands of people indicated that they would be attending. Merte’s father tried to salvage the event by deleting the Facebook event, but the damage was done; quickly a new event was created, and again thousands of people committed to it.
The party itself saw a few thousand people going to Haren, where the event in the end culminated in riots; cars were burning, stones were thrown and there were fights between the police and the rioters. Boeschoten and the committee he was part of were tasked with investigating these events and seeing how such riots could be prevented in the future.