Storm Area 51: Nevada Authorities Considering Legal Action Against Facebook Over Event

Before people arrived at Area 51 in Nevada, local authorities began considering legal action against the creator of the Facebook event and the social network behind it all. Authorities were not sure how many people would actually show up to "Storm Area 51" on Friday, as more than 2 million people said they would go. Thankfully, only about 75 people showed up at the Air Force base's gates.

The whole situation began on June 27 when college student Marry Roberts started the Facebook event "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us." He has now said he started it as a joke, but it eventually became the "Alienstock" festival. It was supposed to start on Sept. 19 at the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada, a small town located near the base. A few days before everything was supposed to start, Roberts and his supporters backed out, suggesting everyone head down to the Area 51 Celebration in Las Vegas instead.

Little A'Le'Inn owner Connie West still planned to go ahead with Alienstock herself, event though Roberts' attorney tried to stop her from calling it that. According to the Rachel town website, the event there still attracted about 2,000 visitors "to a less than organized event site."

"Many of the visitors chose to camp on surrounding public land instead of paying for a camp site. Visitors should be prepared to be completely self contained for food, water, gas and a place to sleep. There are no services in Rachel besides the local bar," the site reads.

The town also warned people against going to the residential part of the town and that anyone who trespasses on the U.S. Air Force base will be arrested.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told Gizmodo that people started arriving at the inn as early as Wednesday morning.

"I’m not happy about it because you’re looking at a county that does not have a lot of financial resources and this could potentially cost the county," Lee explained. "The county could still be spending upwards of a quarter of a million dollars and that’s not including the salaries of all these 300-plus first responders that are coming here."

Lee still believes Roberts is to blame for the Rachel Alienstock. He told Gizmodo their district attorney also believes Facebook could be held accountable.

"He’s already told people that this is quote-unquote ‘His event,'" Lee said. "He told some of the other event promoters that this was his event. And so I guess if it’s his event and he’s taken ownership of it then we know where legal action should go toward. I’m not an attorney but that is what Lincoln County district attorney is saying."

Lincoln County D.A. Dylan Frehner told KVVU-TV his office will seek actions against Roberts and anyone else who pushed "Storm Area 51." Freher said the event will force the county to spend $200,000 and any illegal activities within the county will be an unnecessary burden.

"Our goal is to keep this county and the people of this county whole," he said.

As Gizmodo points out, Facebook could be protected under the Communications Decency Act's Section 230, but Frehner's office might try to argue that Facebook is exempt in this case. "Anybody who is promoting any illegal activity, we will be seeking to possibly prosecute," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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"Good luck with that. Facebook—I mean you might as well go after the Queen of England," Frank DiMaggio, an event producer who worked with Roberts, told Gizmodo. "As far as going after Matty or the promoters: So here’s the deal—if you’re going to be offering 250-plus emergency responders for an event, why not just cancel the event? They offered the permit. They permitted it. Now they’re saying, 'Oh look what you made us do.'"

Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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