Flash Mobsters: Some Twitter Gatherings Are Turning Criminal


Flash mobs, which started off in 2003 as peaceful acts of public performance, have taken a darker twist as criminals exploit the anonymity of crowds, using social networking to coordinate everything from robberies to fights to general chaos, says the Associated Press. Police are scrambling to keep tabs on the spontaneous assemblies, like the one July 4 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, that disrupted a fireworks show with fighting and vandalism.

In London this week, rioting and looting was blamed in part on groups of youths using Twitter, mobile phone text messages and instant messaging on BlackBerry to organize and keep a step ahead of police. And in Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter condemned the behavior of teenagers involved in flash mobs that have left several people injured in recent weeks.

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