Mall fight raises new concerns over social media sites

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Rebekah Sheets watched what she thought was just another trip to the mall turn into mass confusion Saturday night at the Mall of Louisiana.

"One of store owners... they actually told us they're have been gun shots as he was pulling down the gate," said Sheets.

Fortunately no shots were fired but panic remained. This after an invitation went out earlier Saturday on the social media site Instagram asking others to show up and meet.

Jensen Moore-Copple is an assistant professor of Strategic Communication at LSU and says while the invitation itself is not alarming, the potential for conflict is still there.

"Anytime you send out a mass message and have no way of controlling who gets the message or who is showing up you don't know what's going to happen and so it is something we do need to watch and certainly be concerned about," said Moore-Copple.

Local law enforcement agencies do monitor communication on social media sites but say it's difficult to see everything without input from the public and add a lot of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of parents.

"Talk to your kids about this type of thing," said East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Casey Rayborn-Hicks. "If they see a post on Facebook, Instagram, social media about meeting up somewhere. Only meet up with close friends, know what you're getting into."

That advice does little to ease Rebekah's concerns as she considers her next trip to the mall.

"At the Mall of Louisiana I normally consider pretty safe but now I'm going to consider going with at least one other person instead of just by myself," said Sheets.

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