Social media a ‘scourge’ after Bondi attack: PM

Benjamin Cohen on being named as Bondi attacker

Source: The Australian

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has lashed social media as a “scourge” following a wave of graphic images, videos and misinformation in the aftermath of the Bondi Junction stabbings.

Joel Cauchi, 40, stabbed six people to death and seriously wounded 12 others in a violent rampage at Westfield Bondi Junction on Saturday.

He was shot dead by police inspector Amy Scott.

Photos of his dead body with Scott in the moments after she shot him have been shared widely on social media, along with photos and footage of victims in the shopping centre.

Asked about the distressing material being widely shared, Albanese said it was difficult to control, as everyone was now a publisher thanks to social media.

“It is a scourge in many ways, social media,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“[There is a] lack of responsibility, it must be said as well, of some of the social media operators that we know about allowing content to be circulated which is clearly misinformation.”

Albanese said the government had been criticised for proposing legislation that would increase the power to regulate social media.

“The police were very clear, if people had videos and photos, they should be forwarded to the police, not posted on X or Facebook,” he said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said social media companies had a “massive responsibility” to protect people from harmful material

“I would have to look at it,” he said on Monday.

“But if you want my opinion about whether social media company should act more broadly about protecting young people in particular from graphic or harmful material, the answer is unambiguously yes.”

Elsewhere, in the immediate aftermath of Saturday afternoon’s attack, social media users globally leapt to make Islamophobic and anti-Semitic claims about the attacker’s motives.

In another alarming incident, the Seven Network erroneously named Sydney university student Benjamin Cohen as the murderer on Sunday. Other sites and social media accounts widely republished the error.

Cohen, a first-year UTS student who lives in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, said the mistake was “highly distressing” for him and his family.

“It’s extremely disappointing to me to see people mindlessly propagating misinformation like this without even the slightest thought put into fact checking,” he told The Australian.

“But what’s even more disappointing to me is a major news network doing this, using my name without waiting for a statement from police to verify this or going out to try and verify it themselves.”

Seven has blamed “human error” for the mistake. The network contacted Cohen on Sunday afternoon to apologise and also broadcast an apology.

But Albanese said traditional media outlets also had a responsibility to publish accurate information.

“How is it that a mainstream media organisation just put that up?” he said.

“There were other declarations early on by some mainstream media that there was a terrorist attack underway.”

– with AAP

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