Oxford Circus ‘shooting' scare: How it unfolded on social media

Snapshots and statistics about how the incident became a global trend.

There was panic in London on Friday night, as members of the public ran from reports of gunfire and fears of terrorism.

However, around 90 minutes after receiving 999 calls and racing to the scene by Oxford Circus Tube station, police said there was no evidence of any shots, casualties or suspects.

British Transport Police said the incident is now believed to have started with an altercation between two men on the platform. But how did it unfold on social media?

Buses on Oxford Street
(Isabel Infantes/PA)

According to online analytics tool Trendsmap words relating to the incident, including “oxford”, “incident” and “tube” appeared in hundreds of thousands of tweets from across the world in the hours surrounding the incident.

One of the earliest tweets was a video of commuters in Oxford Circus station appearing to be evacuated. It was posted just six minutes after British Transport Police received a report of “shots” being fired on the platform at 4.37pm.

Shortly after this, and after London Fire Brigade sent three fire engines and 15 firefighters to the scene, unconfirmed reports began to appear.

“Panic at Oxford Circus as people shout bomb!” wrote user @AssedBaig.

“Guy with gun on #oxfordstreet near #oxfordcircus I’m in the middle of it. Currently taking cover in French Connection,” wrote @Greg0wen.

At this time the British Transport Police tweeted to confirm their response to an incident in the area.

The first videos then started to appear, not of an incident taking place but of rush hour commuters and Black Friday shoppers running from an unknown disturbance.

“Everyone’s running this way, I have no idea what they’re running from. I’m on Oxford Circus, this is a bit mad,” @TefTobz said in footage he posted.

There were also accounts from those running.

“We have been locked in Zara Oxford circus until ‘the situation is under control’ – said an announcement after people panicked and ran for cover into the changing rooms,” wrote @blondeafro.

At 4.56pm Transport for London (TfL) said Oxford Circus station had been closed while they investigate a “customer incident”, and Bond Street was also closed.

At 5pm, Olly Murs tweeted to his near eight million followers: “F*** everyone get out of @Selfridges now gun shots!! I’m inside.”

Where previous tweets about the incident had shares in the tens or hundreds, the singer’s attracted over 4,000 retweets and 5,000 likes.

Two minutes later, @CharlotteTerry1 posted another video showing shoppers running into nearby shops.

“Something happening on #oxfordcircus – Hope everyone is ok!!!” she wrote in the post, which also received over one thousand retweets.

From 4.45 to 5.15pm, tweets with the hashtag #oxfordstreet or tagging Metropolitan Police leaped from less than 20 every 10 minutes to almost 4,000 in the same time period.

Tweets on the subject appeared to peak at around 5.20pm, with activity seen globally, particularly in the United Sates, where 10% of tweets using the hashtag #oxfordstreet were made. Around 70% were sent from the UK.

At 5.30pmBTP confirmed they received “one report of a woman sustaining a minor injury when leaving Oxford Circus station” and no other reported casualties.

TfL also revealed stations were open again.

Ten minutes later the Metropolitan Police said they had no trace “of any suspects, evidence of shots fired or casualties” and at 6.05pm the operation was stood down.

Following his high-profile account of the commotion in the area, Murs’ name trended as it became clear the incident was less severe than it first seemed.

Tweets mentioning the pop star rose from 20 per 10 minutes at 5.20pm to over 260 an hour later, with over 15,000 tweets about him over a five hour period following the incident.

“Despite what actually happened I’m so glad it was nothing serious and I hope everyone got home safely,” Murs added at 7.30pm.

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