A POLICE training exercise caused panic on Twitter yesterday after social networking users wrongly began tweeting and re-tweeting that a gunman was on the loose in a busy central London shopping area.
Users of the social networking site were urged to resend the message: “PLEASE RETWEET – GUNMAN on LOOSE on OXFORD STREET – LONDON W1. There has been a shooting and police are on the scene. STAY INSIDE.”
Messages about the illusive gunman surged on the website, but as the number of tweets continued to rise conflicting information began to spread on the website.
One Twitter user wrote, “Oxford shooting just a rumour. Panoramic views of the street from our office and there’s nothing happening folks…”, while others blamed the panic on people misreading a senior fashion assistant’s tweet which said she was “street style shooting in Oxford Circus” for an ad campaign.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service was then forced to issue a statement confirming there had not been a firearms incident on Oxford Street – it was all just a misunderstanding.
“It would appear that some information about a routine police training exercise being held today [Wednesday] has inadvertently got into the public domain.
“As part of that exercise, participants have been given a hypothetical written scenario which involved an armed incident on Oxford Street,” police said. “We would like to reaffirm that this is a training exercise only.”