An innocent Twitter post from a fashion assistant turned London's Oxford Circus into a panic zone yesterday lunchtime as online Chinese whispers spiraled out of control. The original post by ASOS staffer Candice Bailey said "Street style shooting in Oxford Circus for ASOS and Diet Coke. Let me know if you're around!!" which others turned into "Apparently there's a shooting at Oxford Circus, gunmen on the move. We've been told to stay in" within minutes.
Thousands more got involved -- innocently thinking they were spreading helpful information -- and it quickly became one of the top trending topics in the UK. Coupled with confused reports of a police training exercise and the odd online prankster, it lead to mild panic in Twitter-literate London workers while Oxford Street itself remained oblivious, and distinctly gunman free.
It took strenuous denials from the Met Police and news sources to restore calm by mid-afternoon and by the evening the whole hoax was headline news. You can read the stream of confusion and panic here and maybe think twice about that "Topshop is the bomb!!!" tweet in future.