Sept. 20, 2010 — -- A British teen intending to invite a few close friends to her 15th birthday party next month accidentally attracted tens of thousands of would-be attendees after failing to mark the event "private" on Facebook.
Rebecca Javeleau sent the invitation using the social networking site early last week and had meant to include 15 of her friends, a number on which she and her mother had agreed. But within hours, the number of attendees began to grow, eventually reaching 21,000 as word caught on about the open party.
So police in the small town of Hertfordshire, located 30 miles north of London, say they're prepared to provide security on the day of the party, Oct. 7, which has since been cancelled.
"We hope that it will die down before then," Sgt. Lewis Ducket of the Hertfordshire Police Department said. "But we've put in place a plan for high police visibility at major transport routes and in local spots.
"[The party was to be held] in a block of flats that wouldn't accommodate more than 10 people, let alone 10,000," he said.
Messages left for Rebecca weren't immediately returned but her mother, Tracey Livesey, told the Telegraph newspaper that her daughter has experienced the consequences of her online error.
"She did not realize that she was creating a public event and should have done," Livesey told the newspaper. "She is going to have to change her mobile phone SIM card because of the number of calls she has been getting about it.
"Rebecca did not understand the privacy settings and she has lost her Internet as a result of that. I've taken away her computer so she won't make that mistake again," she said.
Grounded Until Her 21st Birthday?
Livesey said that even if 1 percent of the people who RSVPed to the party show up, it will be "chaos," a scenario Ducket is equally concerned about.
"Hertfordshire is a quiet place with 30 flats total," he said. "The population is 30,000, so you're looking at almost doubling it if everyone who was invited turned up."
Ducket said that he spoke to Rebecca directly and that she is "extremely upset" about everything that has transpired.
"This was never her intention, she's caused significant upset and worry to her mum," Ducket said. "This has involved quite a lot of time and police effort to try to redress it and obviously it's made international news.
"She's grounded. Probably until her 21st birthday if her mother has anything to do with it," he added.
Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment for this story, but Ducket offered some of his own advice for social media users.
"The best way to avoid this in the future is not to use social networking sites for invitations," he said. "You should use the traditional method of sending something in the post or ringing your friends up."
Despite police efforts to spread the word that the party has been cancelled, some Facebook users who don't even know Rebecca say they're still planning to ring in the 15th birthday.
Tom Woodard, 23, who started a new Facebook group called "I Was Part Of The 7.10.10 FB takeover of Rebecca Javeleau's Flat Party," told ABC News that he'll be at her father's apartment next month no matter what.
"I'm about nine miles from the party, and I'm going to go and see if people show up," Woodard said. "I know the thing got cancelled, but me and my friends will still go, it's going to be quite funny.
"The police can tell us to go away but we're not doing anything wrong. It's still worth checking out," he said.
Asked whether he feels sorry for Rebecca, who will mark her coming of age without a party, Woodard said no.
"At the end of the day she's got thousands of people to celebrate her birthday with her," he said. "You have to look on the bright side."