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Flash Mobs a Threat to Security?

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the disruptive-technologies dept.

Communications 582

RawCode writes "News about a recent report released by the RCMP suggests that flash mobs could pose a future threat to security. 'Some are aimed at celebrities. Tech-savvy teenaged girls in Britain can quickly spread the word on the whereabouts of Prince William, surrounding him with hundreds of screaming fans. Some are political, organizing protests. Text-messaging was instrumental to organizing public demonstrations in the Phillippines that forced President Joseph Estrada from office'."

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582 comments

Two thoughts (5, Insightful)

Control Group (105494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363469)

First, this seems to be the failings of security through obscurity writ large, and not much to be done about it. Unless you can start closing off whole areas of cities so celebrities can walk through them, I don't see how you can address this sort of problem.

The other thing that occurs to me, unfortunately, is that this will lead us even more down the path of trying to prevent crimes rather than punish them. It sounds like a good idea - I mean, isn't it better to stop the Bad Thing from even happening? The problem with it, of course, is that the only way to prevent crime is to actually curtail the abilities of people to do things that could be criminal. Fundamentally, it's a tradeoff of liberty for security.

I'm not exactly a wild-haired anarchist, and I do believe that some tradeoffs of that nature are necessary given the amount of damage ten dedicated people can inflict (to paraphrase a quote that went something like "the progress of history can be measured by how many people a group of ten dedicated men can kill"...but I don't remember who said it. Help with attribution would be appreciated), but we (by which I mean the so-called first world) keep moving in only one direction: more security, less liberty. It's a cultural decision which is based on events like plane hijackings, car bombs and assasinations, but results in policies like the DMCA and the CBDTPA.

The article certainly comes across as a justification for engaging in yet more crime prevention. At some point, I can only hope that we turn around and realize that we can't prevent Bad Things from happening, so we're better off allowing liberty and punishing criminals than eliminating liberty and making criminals out of everyone.

Re:Two thoughts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363528)

How on earth did you manage to write a first psot that long? ;-)

Re:Two thoughts (-1, Offtopic)

trick-knee (645386) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363569)

*and* apparently RTFA??

Re:Two thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363650)

Because he's a subscriber and has some lead time on the story before the unwashed masses get their hands on it....

Re:Two thoughts (1, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363615)

Great, but first we need to fix our judicial system so that we can actually punish criminals.

Re:Two thoughts (1)

megarich (773968) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363648)

Just on a tangent, I think we need to fix our poor justice laws first to be able to PUNISH criminals SWIFTLY and let the punishment stick. If you murder a couple of people, you get the chair no questions ask no appeals, deal with it. If you a sex felon, you get your nuts chopped off. And i still strongly feel you should be convicted for murder if you drink and drive and kill someone....

My views of law enforcement may be harsh to some people, but the point is preventing can only go so far, people will commit crimes no manner how much you try to prevent and giving those felons a "slap in the wrist" so they can walk about to commit more crimes, like now, will just further detoriate the situation....

Re:Two thoughts (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363782)

I say use public floggings as a detterent and punishment. Make children watch them at a young age so they know what happens to bad men and women.

The quote is..... (3, Insightful)

Jsprat23 (148634) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363696)

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Re:The quote is..... (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363779)

That's not the one I'm thinking of, unfortunately (though it is another one I like). I'm quite certain the quote I have in mind does specifically reference the number of people 10 men can kill. It was bandied about plenty immediately after 9/11.

Re:Two thoughts (4, Insightful)

Epistax (544591) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363769)

I agree entirely. I think the idea of people mobbing celebrities is a social problem of ours, not a technological one. Cure the problem, not the (albeit) catalyst.

I personally can't comprehend how people become so attached to celebrities that they collect things about or belonging to them. Or in the case of a musician (er most likely bad singer) go to an event with the person and scream so much they don't even hear the music-- what are they really there for? I'm calling the entertainment industry sick and perverted, and blaming the audience.

Sure it is a threat. (3, Insightful)

diginux (816293) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363470)

If the "flash mob" is a bunch of terrorists, or others seeking havoc. This makes no sense at all. Having a LUG meeting could be a security threat with the right type of people :)

Re:Sure it is a threat. (5, Funny)

SlashdotLemming (640272) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363638)

Having a LUG meeting could be a security threat with the right type of people :)

I'm thinking more of a biohazard.

New Campaign Ad? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363472)

Can you impeach me now?

Technology (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363473)

Seems they are simply using technology to better do what they want to do. Isn't this what it is for?

Re:Technology (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363517)

You would think so but now that the technology is created those in power are changing what we should be able to do with it.

Imagine... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363477)

a Beowulf Cluster of flash mobs!

Re:Imagine... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363602)

no you fuck. it's now a "BitTorrent of flash mobs". get a brain.

Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363484)

Of course it is a threat... It's a threat because people are able to quickly organize and protest. That is a major threat to public officials that want to ignore the fact that there is dissention.

Afterall isn't that why we are "protecting" our President from those horrible demonstrators? They might actually show him that there is a percentage of the population that doesn't agree with him?

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363564)

Yes, and if you were Prince William, you would be thrilled to bits having hordes of screaming teenage girls surrounding you, tearing your clothes off.

This is slashdot, after all.

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (3, Informative)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363572)

You are aware that Canada doesn't have a president?

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (4, Insightful)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363584)

The president knows... it's the followers of him that we must shelter.

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (0, Troll)

blaine (16929) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363711)

Yeah, after all, protesters are only roped off at Republican events. Nobody would ever think to force protesters into a chain link cage at a Democrat event /sarcasm

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (1)

mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363750)

Of course it is a threat... It's a threat because people are able to quickly organize and protest.

Exactly, the press can use cell phones to follow celebs (like Bush) and give them good press. The only way our freedom of speech really works is to get equal visibility which means appearing when the press is there. Giving up 'flash mobs' means that politicians could appear on tv with NO protesters many times.

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363753)

"They might actually show him that there is a percentage of the population that doesn't agree with him?'

All right pop quiz genius who put the "free speech" zones into place?

That would be slick willie...

But never mind me you were ranting about Bush with out thinking.....

Re:Protecting those in power from the evil truth. (3, Interesting)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363763)

If an assassin wanted cover to take a close shot at [insert someone important's name here], all they have to do is to organize a flash mob.

All of that chaos would make it difficult for the secret service to protect [that person] from the nut looking to do damage.

Flash mobs? (0, Offtopic)

sulli (195030) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363485)

What, it's still 2002? Next you'll be telling me that the Angels are going to win the World Series or something.

Of course they are a threat (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363488)

Any attempt by citizens to communicate and organize outside of sanctioned government channels will be seen as a threat to security. Welcome to the future.

Re:Of course they are a threat (4, Insightful)

cL0h (624108) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363647)

Isn't it amazing how accurate George Orwell was when he wrote the book "1984" fifty six years ago. He didn't however foresee the precursive events or threats which would lead to totalitarian government control of civil liberties.
Perhaps the catalysts don't matter since the world seems to be increasingly bent on raising walls rather then lowering them.
So much for the global village!

as always, our leaders look out for the elite (5, Interesting)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363489)

before they look out for us.

If it is lives they want to save, how about all the millions of working class people who die obesity, cancer, heart disease, etc? Instead we pay to make sure some elite figurehead won't have his hair rumpled by teenaged girls.

Typical of the human critter....

Re:as always, our leaders look out for the elite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363542)

We should volunteer as alternate rumple-victims, and sacrifice ourselves! ;)

Re:as always, our leaders look out for the elite (2, Interesting)

CodeWanker (534624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363633)

I don't think it's about celebrities. I think that's the only example they've got so far. A lot of it depends on what kind of awful threat the worriers in the government think we face.

Are we going to have large numbers of suicide bombers waiting around for a target of opportunity? Suppose there were four. The first one signaled the second "I'm going off at 1st and main... Now." So the second bomber arrives. The next one to arrive goes off in the middle of the densest crowd of spectators, signalling that he's gone off.

But, wait! you wouldn't need flash mobs for that; you just need the bad guys loitering every two or three blocks and waiting to have a crowd to blow up in.

Hmmm... If you spot a high-value target, like a Prime Minister, wouldn't you just whack him if so equipped? Or call for backup if not? But not a flash mob...

So these folks really ARE just looking for things to outlaw? Hmmm...

Re:as always, our leaders look out for the elite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363712)

If it is lives they want to save, how about all the millions of working class people who die obesity, cancer, heart disease, etc? Instead we pay to make sure some elite figurehead won't have his hair rumpled by teenaged girls.

This may come as a shock, but we are actually doing a great deal when it comes to trying to save people who die of cancer and heart disease. Obesity has also gotten quite some attention lately, attention that was suppressed by a bunch of american companies not wanting to mend their ways. At the same time, millions are starving to death in Sudan. By your own standards, I guess those fat bastards should be left to fend for themselves while we go off and help people that are dropping like flies due to lack of water? Hm?

On the other hand, perhaps now is the time to protect Prince William from a mob of flashing teenage mutant hair loss fairies?

Well as for America... (5, Insightful)

apachetoolbox (456499) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363490)

Right to Peaceably Assemble

The right to peacefully gather and parade or demonstrate to make one's views known or to support or oppose a public policy is based upon the twin guarantees of the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

Practicing your right to assemble is NOT a security risk.

please report to the nearest Free Speech Zone (5, Insightful)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363518)

you are living in the past. Have you not heard of Free Speech Zones?

Re:please report to the nearest Free Speech Zone (1)

HAKdragon (193605) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363748)

I'm a little more conserned about Pier 57 [2600.com] to be honest.

Re:please report to the nearest Free Speech Zone (1, Flamebait)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363767)

The fucking DEMS did the same exact thing! Why does everyone blame the R's when the D's do it too?

Damn it, both parties want to fuck you over.

Re:Well as for America... (1)

Mr. No Skills (591753) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363728)

Practicing your right to assemble is NOT a security risk.

I think the point is that this right can be used to create a diversion or block traffic or disrupt security for the end result of committing a crime. It is a crime to be a co-conspirator to a crime, and with flash mobs the concern is that the co-conspirators may not realize that they are being lead into a larger serious crime.

Like all things terrorism, the problem is preventing terrorists who manipulate the system to cause harm.

Ehm.. (3, Insightful)

boesOne (693775) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363491)

If you reason this way then everything is a threat to security. How insecure is prince William anyway if he's surrounded by teenage girls ? Are we afraid of teenage-terror-girls ?

Re:Ehm.. (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363611)

First ask the Russians about the young female suicide bombers that they have experienced lately.

Re:Ehm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363675)

Well, they had better worry about it now than after he's been gang-raped by a horde of teenage girls.

Re:Ehm.. (1)

ATMosby (746034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363683)

I guess you don't watch much anime? Now if Prince William suddenly develops tenticles then perhaps the teenage girls should be afraid. Lol.

Re:Ehm.. (1)

SpecBear (769433) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363686)

Yeah, I just wish I had those kinds of problems when I was younger. "Oh my God, it was terrible. They came out of nowhere. Hundreds upon hundreds of tech-savvy teenage girls surrounding me, screaming their adoration. Please, give me a moment, I can't talk right now..."

Remember when royalty had to worry about things like assassinations, popular uprisings, and military coups?

Re:Ehm.. (1)

gorbachev (512743) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363758)

I think the suggestion was what if among those teenage girls is someone, who's not there to gawk at Prince William, but to kill him?

With a flash mob, it's kinda hard to know who the hell is among the crowd.

Flash Mobs and Terrorists (1, Troll)

SlashdotMirrorer (669639) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363494)

Flash mobs of course can be a nuisance, or even a threat to the safety of the public as a whole. All it takes is one bearded terminal hacker gone bad to start one up under the auspices of a good prank or a fun time, but with the ulterior motivation of making some business pay for their alleged crimes.

Can we allow bearded terminal hackers to become judge, jury, and executioner? Perhaps one day we'll look back on the incident at the offices of Symantec last year and realize that it wasn't just a crowd, it was a crowd put together by a person, possibly a terrorist depending on your definition of such. Flash mobs have the potential to ensnare young participants in things they would normally not even dream of.

Is it worth the good pranks to let this go on?

Re:Flash Mobs and Terrorists (2, Insightful)

Baby Duck (176251) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363716)

You write as if the bearded-one mind-controlled everyone in the crowd, stripping them of all self-will. As much as you'd like for it to be true, it's not. So the "judge, jury, executioner" cliche doesn't fit at all.

A bunch of people chose to do this. One guy might have ignited it, but please stop acting like he's a corruptor that will consume your soul and force you to do his bidding.

Flash mobs have the potential to ensnare young participants in things they would normally not even dream of.

GOOD! It sure beats youthful apathy, doesn't it?

Someone think of the celebrities! (5, Insightful)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363499)

So what - ban text messaging to protect poor Britney Spears next time someone spots her getting married in a Vegas drive-thru chapel? I think it might be easier, and definitely preferable, to ban celebrities.

Tinfoil Hat Government. (4, Interesting)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363503)


When the British police confiscate cell phones as they are apparently "empowered to do so" are they allowed to go though the phones call list and stored numbers or would that require a warrant? The ol' "guilt by association" thing...

Yes, they really could be dangerous (1, Insightful)

ShatteredDream (636520) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363509)

With the kind of random chaos that they could bring, it would be very, very easy for someone with violent or other criminal intentions to get away with something. Imagine flash mobbing the President, it would be very easy for someone to get around the SS agents and shoot the President because there would be so many people "spontaneously" crowding around Bush.

Now I know that many of you who can't stand Bush think this is the perfect means to "retake America" but let's be honest. Flash mobbing presents a danger to what little is left of freedom of association.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363546)

you believe it is actually a difficult proposition to a dedicated person, to assassinate the president.

it isnt. it takes dedication and patience.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363663)

can you do a proof of concept here in the USA? before November, please.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363699)

if you cant come up with plan yourself, you are not dedicated, and which destined for failure.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (1)

gantzm (212617) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363704)

I agree completely. Killing anyone becomes real easy when you can find someone willing to commit suicide to perform the act. The suicide attacker is very hard to defend against, especially if you don't see it coming

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363641)


Imagine flash mobbing the President, it would be very easy for someone to get around the SS agents and shoot the President because there would be so many people "spontaneously" crowding around Bush.


HA-HA!

You obviously aren't from here.

Nobody (but nobody) gets anywhere near the president w/o an appointment and body cavity search.

Flash mobbing the president? All that would happen is that the flash mobbers would be detained by the SS before they got into the same county as the president. If the number of mobbers outpaced the SS's ability to detain them, then would be mobbers who got past the SS would start getting shot (again, long before they got anywhere near the president)

Non Flash mobs (Campain Photo Ops) Pose a much more real risk as they actually get within shooting distance.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (1)

Tyndmyr (811713) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363661)

Heck, I believe our politicians might be better off if they carried bombs strapped to them. If a given percentage of the population electronically registers their discontent via our trusty voting system in a given time, well, time for new elections.

I predict this would bring about very secure election systems, and a tendancy not to ignore large minorities of the population.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (4, Insightful)

Doverite (720459) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363706)

So, a high powered rifle at a distance is dangerous too and they let the ban on assault rifles run out contrary to campaign promises. Shouldn't we ban those, or how about pretzels for that matter. This whole topic is absurd. Freedom requires risks, and resposibilities, you can't be completely safe and completely free at the same time.

Re:Yes, they really could be dangerous (1)

megarich (773968) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363730)

Point taking but its not like people can't find the presiden't whereabouts anyways. We all know where he lives. We all know he was in nyc for the republic national convention and what time he would be there. You think a mob rush in a city of 7 million people would be enough to save the president?

And look at lincoln, jfk and ronald reagon and that was way back in the day before cell phones. The threat has and always will be there but that is the risk you run wanting to be a leader of a high power nation...

I would be worried... (-1, Offtopic)

Suit_N_Tie (128024) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363513)

by the Tony Soprano Mob than the Flash Mob, since the Flash is only a fast super hero (and a cheezy DC hero at that), while Tony and his crew can "whack" you for looking at them sideways.

Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.

Ugh (4, Insightful)

nuclear305 (674185) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363520)

Not trying to troll here...but these days everything is a security threat. I'm sure a cat wondering the lawn of the whitehouse is a security threat just because *gasp* somebody may have injected it to carry some kind of biological agent.

As for flash mobs, what exactly can you do about them? The minute you start trying to use force to prevent flash mobs from forming (read: before they turn violent...IF they even do) you're going to have everyone yelling about how oppressed they are.

These so-called "security threats" come with the right to be able to leave your house whenever you want...

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363625)

I'm sure a cat wandering the lawn of the whitehouse is a security threat just because *gasp* somebody may have injected it to carry some kind of biological agent.

Damn. So much for that idea, then.

Re:Ugh (2, Funny)

RPI Geek (640282) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363655)

I'm sure a cat wondering the lawn of the whitehouse is a security threat just because *gasp* somebody may have injected it to carry some kind of biological agent.

My first thought to that was "well I suppose if you use a catapult. . ."

Sorry, bad joke :)

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363672)

Ah, but what if it was thousands of islamic girls wearing birkhas flash mobbing President George Bush or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ?

Heh, just for the hell of it we should arrange that. Thousands of people dressed in birkhas to meet President Bush on a campaign stop.

Mobs of flashing girls? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363525)

Tech-savvy girls flashing for Prince William -
now THAT's a power to be reckoned with! :)

Security, Security (3, Interesting)

Tyndmyr (811713) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363527)

I believe that people are far too paranoid about security...Every possible advance in communications could help "dangerous" people as well as serve useful purposes. And apparently Britian treats protesters different if they have a cell phone...

RCMP = Royal Canadian Mounted Police (2, Informative)

TheLoneDanger (611268) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363530)

For those who don't know (and the article doesn't seem to explain), RCMP stands for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Y'know the mounties, with the red uniforms. I believe they are roughly equivalent to the FBI, though I am sure someone else can explain exactly what their duties are.

Re:RCMP = Royal Canadian Mounted Police (5, Informative)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363665)

Yup,

RCMP == FBI
CSIS == CIA
CSE == NSA

Roughly speaking of course -- the exact details are framed in their separate charters and, of course, the constitution differs between our two countries.

Re:RCMP = Royal Canadian Mounted Police (4, Informative)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363708)

The RCMP [rcmp-grc.gc.ca] enforces federal laws and statutes.

In provinces where there is no provincial police, it also enforces provincial laws and statutes, usually as a police force under contract with the provincial government.

Some cities and towns also contract the RCMP for municipal police services as well.

From their website: We provide a total federal policing service to all Canadians and policing services under contract to the three territories, eight provinces (except Ontario and Quebec), approximately 198 municipalities and, under 172 individual agreements, to 192 First Nations communities.

Also for those who don't know, "First Nations" refers to Native Americans.

Flash mobs? (5, Funny)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363535)

2002 just called, they want their fad for unemployed bloggers back.

(Yeah yeah, and tell them they can have their joke back too)

That's hardly surprising... (2, Insightful)

i_r_sensitive (697893) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363538)

For those who haven't read it, try "The Permanent Floating Riot Club" by Larry Niven. I can't remember which anthologies it is in, but a worthwhile read. At the end you won't be surprised by this phenom, except maybe that it isn't worse...

Well, duh (4, Insightful)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363543)

...so what they're saying is that spontaneous, large, disorganized groups of people in a small space can pose a threat to security.

Dene Moore, you get a cookie. I can't wait to read your next exposé, "Bullets Fired From New, Hi-Tech Guns May Be Deadly"...

Most are not political, just silly. (3, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363544)

Like this one:

Everyone who reads this should go to this guy's blog [fatality.co.uk] and post a comment about how you are looking for someone named Betty.

The real danger is that flash mobs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363545)

...will become just another over-hyped buzzword no better than all those others sitting on some PHB bookshelf. Oops... too late.

Brush up your Niven.... (4, Informative)

abb3w (696381) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363563)

"Flash Crowd", 1973; collected in "The Flight of the Horse".
"The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club", 1974; collected in "A Hole in Space".

Unfortunately, the solution is going to have to be different. The stories make a starting point for thinking about the problem.

The same threat as cellular phones. (4, Informative)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363566)

If I A few years back at the Philadelphia RNC a person from 2600 [2600.com] was arrested [2600.com] for using a cellular phone to commit a crime. He was accused of using the phone to arrange a riot.

Of course, the entire case was eventually dismissed.

Re:The same threat as cellular phones. (1)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363632)

Wait.. there's a law against using cellular phones to commit a crime?

Sounds like the government being pissy they can't trace them as well.

overflow (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363585)

You just have to treat the problem with information overflow.

The location of all "stars" should be posted all the times.

First, you'd see that any given time there are tons of stars moving around in the city, which will make them more "common".

Second, if you can find out any time where the stars are, spotting them is not even exciting anymore.

Overflow the crowd with info, so that it will become a no-big-deal issue.

Flash Mobs = Democracy (4, Insightful)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363587)

As usual, the government is attempting to subvert a technology that is pure democratic freedom of speech. Wish to gather and protest a government official/stance? Gather a flash mob quickly and protest. Nothing terroristic about that - or every method of communication on topics not approved by the government will be outlawed under the 'terror' banner.
The only manner this could fall under the 'terrorism' moniker is for the flash mob to be directed to do something illegal. Kinda like 'Gather at xxxx street and bring bombs and guns to eliminate yyyy official/people'.
As pointed out before and proven here, labeling something as a potential terrorist threat is the new way freedom is subverted - and this must stop.

Re:Flash Mobs = Democracy (2)

LouCifer (771618) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363698)

Actually, this is yet another attempt at the gubment attempting to outlaw something on the premise that it might be used to commit a crime.

So much for innocent until proven guilty.

I thought this was a democracy.

Next thing you know, we won't be allowed to assemble in groups larger than 3 in public at any time.

So what is the TSA then? (2, Funny)

baudilus (665036) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363597)

It's the largest flash mob in the US. Why do you think they call them "Thousands Standing Around"?

Flash Coffee and Ice Cream (5, Funny)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363601)

Back when I was a UC Santa Cruz [ucsc.edu] student, people used to organize food runs on the message board on the open access student timesharing computer, a PDP-11 called "ucscb", that ran BSD. You know, with adm-3a terminals and all.

Yes, I'm that old. This was around 1986 or so.

Anyway, one night there was a food run declared for midnight at the Lyons restaurant in Capitola. One hundred and ten students descended all at once on the otherwise empty restaurant, and all ordered coffee, some ice cream, and at the end asked for separate checks, each of which ranged from maybe one to five dollars.

There were only a couple employees on staff when we arrived. It took a long time to get served because they had to call off-duty employees on the phone, waking them out of bed to come work for the hour or two we were there.

As we prepared to depart, the restaurant manager sternly said "Don't ever do that again".

perhaps the reverse could be made true ... (2, Interesting)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363624)

Could the Internet, phones, etc. be used equally well to detect, prepare for, disrupt and otherwise mess with Flash-mobbers?

Of course that would require a sufficiently large and motivated group of people with lots of time on their hands who are interested in preventing mayhem ... ;)

Hmm... (2, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363717)

If only there were people whose job it was to prevent mayhem... We can dream, can't we?

Re:Hmm... (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363770)

If only there were people whose job it was to prevent mayhem... We can dream, can't we?

Cute ... but my point was that the "power" of the Flash-mobbers doubtless lies in their decentralized nature, flexibility, speed, motivation, etc.

Although the same technology is available to those who would foil them, I was wondering if those other factors might be missing.

Seems to me (4, Interesting)

Treeluvinhippy (545814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363654)

The technology is simply being used for what was originaly envisioned. Worldwide cheap and efficient communication that can change the world.

And since it's changing the world it isn't surprising to me that there are those who would like to see this form of communication restricted.

Signal to noise.... (4, Interesting)

zippity8 (446412) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363657)

As always, it can be easily solved.

Just put this article in the paper, and wait for other teenage boys to get the idea of throwing a few posts on the web about how the "prince" (or whatever target you want) will be at a certain location.

Then just sit back and wait as all the girls run around frantically, desperately trying to find someone that isn't there.

More noise == problem solved.

Controlling Communication (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363658)

When you control the means of communication -- to wit, the telecommunications companies -- you can shut down the ability of flash mobs in a moment.

And governments have this control. Both to enforce censorship (filtering) of messages, and to shut it down completely. And don't you dare believe otherwise! They call it National Security, and it's part of every country.

This is even a greater threat to national security (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363679)

...than masses of students stuffing themselves into volkswagons and phone booths.

made illegal by the rich and famous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363691)

It's funny, how the rich and famous will try to make it illegal what bothers them, even if it's a fundamental freedom. No to mention how they are using up all available resources paid by common tax payers for their own goals.

The funniest part is that it's the public interest that makes them a star at the first place.

Coordinated behavior = power (4, Interesting)

invid (163714) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363702)

Historically, the reason large groups of people could be controlled by small groups is that the small groups were able to coordinate their behavior better. This usually took years of training within a culture of discipline (like the Roman army). Now, with technology, it is easier to coordinate the behaviors of large groups of people. Your seeing more of this sort of thing with grass roots campain activity over the internet. However, this will lead to unexpected side effects which I certainly can't predict, and I imagine has the entrenched powers-that-be worried, because if you're in power you want the general population to be predictable.

How are flash mobs more dangerous than say... (5, Interesting)

Demon-Xanth (100910) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363762)

...British Soccer fans? They show up at a predetermined time, riot, and then disperse to thier home country. And they've been known to cause injuries and death!

A soccer ball is the symbol of real terror!

opposing the president? blasphemy! (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 9 years ago | (#10363768)

Text-messaging was instrumental to organizing public demonstrations in the Phillippines that forced President Joseph Estrada from office

Well, of course they're a security threat! We don't want groups of unimportant people forcing politicians from office, now do we?

Why do Austinites have to pay for the roads AGAIN? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10363774)

From this [austintollparty.com] page:

Most people are familiar with the current Dallas and Houston Tollway Systems. To illustrate one problem with the Austin Plan, compare Toll Road Miles per million people: Houston has 17, the city of Dallas has 13, and Austin will have more than 113! If you look at the Dallas and Houston maps, you'll notice those cities, (as other cities with toll roads throughout the United States) have a simple loop or E/W and N/S tollways as additional "new" road options. The toll plans we all know in the past are built with investor dollars, and they complement the existing highways. The toll plans we all know in the past are built with investor dollars, are new roads, took years to carefully plan and they complement the existing highways. The Austin toll plan is built with our tax dollars and the toll roads become our existing highways. The Austin plan was rushed and approved within 3 months. If this doesn't look like a boondoggle, what does?

The Austin Toll Plan - Download Larger Map [austintollparty.com]:
Shifts allmost every local Highway to Toll Roads.
Uses Billions of our tax dollars to finance the Toll Roads. In the past Toll Roads were built with 80% bonds...these toll roads are built with 80% of our tax dollars.
Seizes over $100 Million of our tax financed roads/projects in Austin and converts them to Toll Roads. See .pdf [austintollparty.com]
It's not a transportation solution, it's a "Revenue Generator", a Boondoggle for special interests.
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