Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reality of Bomb Threat Message in Liverpool and Manchester Shopping Centres - - Analysis of Wildly Spreading Hoax Message

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Summary:

A warning message circulating wildly on the web/internet purportedly from an ambulance service staff member claims that there is a reliable bomb threat for tomorrow involving shopping centres in Liverpool and Manchester.

In fact, the claims in the message are totally baseless. Police have disregarded the bomb threat rumours as false. Forwarding, re-posting and sending on this message will realize nothing other than spreading needless fear and alarm in society and masses. 

Let's have a look to the message contents:
Just been text this message from a friend, her sister wrks 4the ambulance service: Jst heard at wrk - credible bomb threat 4 lpool 1 + trafford centre 4 2moro. Hospitals/burns unit on high alert. So avoid + pls pass msg on.

Beware! Its a Cyber World - - Explanation:

This warning message has circulated via text message, email and social networking websites since around December 12. The message warns recipients that hospitals have been put on high alert because of a bomb threat made against shopping centres in Liverpool, and Manchester UK. According to the warning, which purportedly originated with an ambulance service staff member, a "credible bomb threat" has been received against the Liverpool One shopping centre in Liverpool as well as the Trafford Centre in Manchester. The message asks recipients to pass the information on as a means of alerting others to the supposed threat.

However, this bomb threat rumour is without substance and should not be taken seriously. Police have dismissed the claims in the message. A 13th December news release published on the Merseyside Police website notes:
Police advice about text threat rumours

Merseyside Police is aware that there are a number of text messages circulating about a possible threat against Liverpool One.
Merseyside Police can confirm that there is no intelligence to suggest any threat against Liverpool One at the current time.

The increased police presence in the city today is to facilitate the demonstration taking place in the city centre and reassure Christmas shoppers.
A 13 December article in the Liverpool Echo also debunks the rumours:
MERSEYSIDE police today moved to quash internet rumours of a Liverpool One bomb threat. Numerous members of the public contacted the police and the ECHO to report a so-called hospital alert, after rumours suggested a threat had been made against the shopping complex.

A statement issued by the force said: “Merseyside Police is aware that there are a number of text messages circulating about a possible threat against Liverpool One.

“Merseyside Police can confirm that there is no intelligence to suggest any threat against Liverpool One at the current time.”
As noted above, the rumour may have been fuelled by increased police presence in the city at the time the rumour began circulating. Extra police were on hand, not because of a bomb threat but because of possible problems related to a demonstration taking place in the city centre. The rumours were probably further fuelled because hospitals in the area were indeed put on alert at the time. However, this alert was because bad weather had caused a number of serious accidents and there was concern that some hospitals might therefore reach bed capacity.

There are also no credible reports whatsoever about any threat to Manchester's Trafford Centre. A spokesperson for The Trafford Centre posted the following answer to a user's enquiry about the supposed threat on the centre's Facebook page:
"[T]his "warning" is not true at all. We've spoken to the police, and they assure us that there is no specific or increased threat to The Trafford Centre - it's business as usual this Christmastime!
Please let all your friends know the truth - don't let these hoaxers ruin their Christmas shopping!
Unfortunately, like other such hoax warnings, the message does not list a specific date. It simply claims that the attack is set to take place "tomorrow". This vagueness ensures that the message is quite likely to continue pointlessly circulating for months or even years into the future. In such cases "tomorrow" never comes. Moreover, such false rumours often mutate as they travel when malicious pranksters alter details about where the attack is supposed to occur. In this way, such false rumours can spread around an entire country listing different targets and can even spread to other nations, sowing fear and confusion as they circulate.

Such false attack rumours have circulated several times in the past. In 2005, a widely circulated hoax message falsely claimed that London Metropolitan Police were preparing for another terrorist attack on the London underground. And, in June 2004, another hoax message caused fear and alarm in the United States when it falsely claimed that a terrorist attack was set to take place in a subway of an unnamed American city.

Thus, this supposed warning is invalid and should not be sent on to others. Re-posting the message will do nothing more than spread unnecessary fear and alarm in the community and waste the time of police and hospital staff who must answer a great many inquiries about the supposed threat from concerned members of the public. Text messages and the Internet can certainly be a rapid and powerful method of alerting members of a community to potential threats. However, it is important that recipients check the veracity of any warnings they receive before passing them on. Sending on false warnings is entirely counterproductive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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