Keep Calm And Don’t Speculate: How To Be Helpful On Social Media Today

There's a lot of misinformation circulating about the Sydney siege. Don't amplify it.

By now you are no doubt aware of the situation unfolding in Sydney’s Martin Place. Earlier this morning, an armed man or group of men entered the Lindt chocolate cafe on the corner of Martin Place and Phillip Street, and took those inside hostage.

Given the cafe’s location directly across the road from the Channel 7 Sydney studio, a live camera feed of the cafe was soon broadcasting on major TV channels, with each channel providing their own commentary. Those watching the feed, or following events on Twitter, would have seen a black flag with Arabic text hung in one of the cafe’s windows.

For now, that is all we know. We do not know who the armed man or men are, or what they want. We do not know how long this will last, or how it may end. We do not know how many people are being held in the cafe. One way or another, these things will become self-evident as time passes and the situation changes. Since the matter is now in the hands of the police on the scene and the man or men inside the cafe, there is very little anyone else, yourself included, can do.

That is not to say there is nothing you can do. Already, false and inaccurate information, unfounded speculation and expressions of hatred and intolerance have taken on a life of their own, spreading panic and confusion far more effectively than one man with a gun ever could. People on or near the scene, who are understandably shaken and upset, have already made a number of inaccurate statements on the situation — particularly in regards to the flag hung in the window — that have since been widely disseminated, and will be taken as fact by people caught up in the moment. 7 News wrongly claimed the flag was an “ISIS flag” in a tweet which has since been deleted.

But the families of the people involved, and the broader public, have a right to information that is accurate and correct. Spreading rumours on something as potentially serious as this is not innocuous: it is actively harmful. Your best course of action is to refrain from commenting or spreading unchecked information, online or otherwise, until the facts are known, the situation is better understood and our collective emotions aren’t running so high.

On that note, the need for live streamed coverage of the cafe is highly debatable in itself; the police need to do their jobs without worrying that their operations may by compromised, and whoever is inside the cafe clearly does not need more notoriety or publicity than that which they have already garnered. Your best course of action is to resist the admittedly powerful temptation to watch, and turn off the TV.

To be frightened and upset in a situation like this is normal. It is natural for a scared and agitated mind to take leaps of imagination that, when echoed and reflected by many other voices, can come to seem like the truth. That is why, right now, it is more important than ever to stick to the facts: to check and double-check every claim and assertion before liking, retweeting, commenting, endorsing, criticising or otherwise amplifying it.


When in doubt, wait. When you are not in full possession of the facts, remain silent so that more informed voices can be heard.

Feature image via 7 News Adelaide/Twitter.



  1. RJW says:

    This is naive journalism. At best.
    Why does the author not report the fact of the flag in the window?
    Why does the author refuse to broadcast the English translation of the flag in the window?
    This is a pathetic piece of writing.
    Wake up, Junkee!

  2. Natasha Roussel says:

    I think you missed the point of the article….

  3. Elmo Keep says:

    ~cool story~

  4. Ben says:

    You totally just missed the point of this entire piece by such a far mark that I can only assume you didnt read it at all and instead thought you were commenting on an opinion piece by The Tele ABOUT a Junkee article.

  5. Chad Parkhill says:

    “Why does the author not report the fact of the flag in the window?”

    Um: “Those watching the feed, or following events on Twitter, would have seen a black flag with Arabic text hung in one of the cafe’s windows.”

    “Why does the author refuse to broadcast the English translation of the flag in the window?”

    I don’t know, possibly because about two seconds of Googling will tell you that the flag contains the Shahada, the English translation of which is “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of the God”. (It’s also used in flags all over the Islamic world.)

  6. RJW says:

    With respect, I think you’re missing the point of what’s happening in the world and how this siege relates to the current geopolitical climate.

    The last thing we want is a rerun of the Cronulla riots, however, not including the English translation of the flag within this article is both irresponsible and highly manipulative. Moreso considering the author is adamant on sticking to the ‘facts’.

    It’s just as dangerous to withhold information.

    My thoughts are extended to everyone inside the cafe, their friends and family.

  7. Great article. This hostage situation is going to make the already racist climate in this country a lot worse, and there’s going to be a lot of inbred bogans prone to drinking and violence out on the streets feeling like these events justify their prejudices. So to all the Muslim Australians out there, stay safe my friends.

    And as for the rest of you, if you see anyone spouting hate or encouraging violence, online or offline, genuinely or rhetorically, shut them down. Now is not the time for that shit.

  8. Travis King says:

    possibly because this is not a report of the situation at hand, rather advice on not overreacting and spreading misinformation. i am not trying to aggravate you or this discussion, i am just pointing out that you seem to be expecting information on the event at hand, which is not at all the purpose of the article.

  9. Dave Phillips says:

    The English translation is “There is no god but the God, Muhammad is the messenger of the God.”… is the shahada flag on normal Musilms not terror groups, the y have another flag

  10. Jar_of_Farts says:

    Is this article a joke? The text on the flag in the window is THE SAME as the text on the isis flag… It’s the fucking same, get it? FFS, stick to the facts? You wouldn’t know a fact if you tripped over one.

    Ooh, let’s wring our hands and fret about who these hostage-takers could be? What could their motivations possibly be? Probably the same as the thousands of other Muslims who have done the same thing, you disingenuous dunce.

  11. BK says:

    Will people ever understand that muslim is not a country or a race of people its a religion. Disliking a religion is NOT racist/racism. Too many people are clueless to the meaning of racist.

  12. Brock Hardy says:

    but of course! musims are not involved. Muslim violence is not a problem in sydney. The lLebanese are our greatest Australian asset! Muslim extremism is not a threat to australia. Isis does not exist in australia. Immigration policies have not led us to the situation we are now in. Islam is the religion of peace. If you are interested about converting to islam, plaese contact the lakemba mosque on +61 2 9750 6833.

  13. Jason says:

    You yourself are sprouting ill informed stereotypes and a form of hate and racism in your comments. According to this nana state pc government.

  14. Crimpy says:

    That’s *not* the point of this article. This article is not reporting on the events of the siege – it is simply stating the danger of spreading rumours and misinformation. If you want information about the siege, you’re in entirely the wrong place – go watch one of the live news feeds covering the situation.

    You might as well have gone onto an article talking about improvements in wind energy, and started complaining that they’re not reporting enough on the dangers of climate change.

  15. Brian Starling says:

    The fact it wasn’t an ISIS flag is what’s disturbing. At least ISIS doesn’t put on false pretenses about being peaceful and respectful of others beliefs.

  16. The Oracle says:

    Wow… condemning a group of people for ‘stereotyping’ .. by … wait for it….. stereotyping a group. Well done Sir, you win the f*ckhead of the year award.

  17. Matt Roden says:

    Current official quote on flag, for all those missing the point of this article and demanding answers:

    NSW police commissioner Andrew Scipione on the flag that was put up in the window of the cafe:

    “Again, it’s a flag that we’ve had people looking at. We’re trying to work out what it stands for but at this stage it’s probably best that I don’t take that any further. We’re working with our partner agencies to better determine what it is we’re dealing with there.”

  18. Eddy says:

    On the contrary. Every time after an Islamic terror incident a bunch of people start wringing their hands about how an upswell of large segments of the society are gonna start attacking Muslims. Yet after 9/11, Bali bombing, in any and all of them, the feared response has always been remarkably non existent. Yeah you invariably find isolated instances of hostility toward Muslims on the street by the usual dickheads, but generally, the actual threat to Muslims here won’t be even 1/100 the scale stories in the media will make it out be over the next few days. Have a little more faith in our country mate.

  19. Tony Love says:

    then why is it racist to dislike jewish people

  20. Gizmo says:

    This is not an ISIS flag. All flags used by all muslims all over the world have the same wordings…. even ISIS. But this is just the normal flag used by everry day muslims in their homes. It is not a quote specific to ISIS and if you google the ISIS flag you will see it is very different. SO I REPEAT THIS IS NOT AN ISIS FLAG AND THEY REPORT IS CORRECT!!! Now who is the dunce. Check your facts before ranting on here next time. Oddly enough reporters know more than keyboard warrior at home in their bedrooms!! P.S stupid racist!!

  21. Brock Hardy says:

    because jewish people can be considered a race as well as a religion

  22. Frankie Stein says:

    How outrageous, that these gunman are not taken out!!!! I do not understand the police’s languor and Tony A, saying go about your life like nothing is happening….people are in danger for their lives.

  23. Brandt Mackay says:

    Islam is a religion, not a race. Muslim however, is a race, big difference.

  24. mikethep says:

    You want a gun battle? How do you think that will help the hostages?

  25. Brock Hardy says:

    All muslims, radicalized or extremist have a home in australia. In fact Australia should actively encourage fundamentalist muslims to move here so we can build a more tolerant and productive society. Why stop there, let’s airlift the entire syrian, lebanese and iraqi population to Sydney where they can kill off and terrorist the entire population. Sydney sucks anyway.

  26. Jar_of_Farts says:

    Read it again, you cretin. I didn’t say it was the isis flag, I said it was the same text. In any case, it doesn’t matter, the motivations are the same. Everyone can see it, except lobotamised imbeciles. This happens every time. ‘Unknown’ person commits act of terrorism. The world knows it’ll be a Muslim, leftists say, wait for the facts. Terrorist is identified as Muslim with self-declared jihadist motivations. Leftist morons go silent. Rinse and repeat.

    Also, can I change race by becoming a muslim? Or Mormon, or Protestant? Maybe Buddhists are a separate race too? Do you know that races and ideologies are completely separate things?

    Islam is an ideology, one that anyone with even the remotest concept of right or wrong, should condemn like the failed ideologies of Nazism or communism. I don’t care what color any of their followers are.

    Now go back to campus, you brown-nosing little worm.

  27. Jan says:

    It’s very good to see an article advising patience. No matter what is happening, if you aren’t involved don’t repeat rumours and non-facts. Wait for the police, and the news services (who will all have slightly different versions) to tell us the facts. Even when the seige is over, all the facts won’t be immediately available. It will take days, if not weeks for that to emerge.

  28. Michael Roelink says:

    Nope. You’re wrong. The word “Muslim” is used to describe people of the Islamic faith but not the faith itself.

    “Race” refers to a persons ethnicity, not their religion. A Muslim is a follower of the religion Islam. An “Arab” is a person of “Arabic” race from the Middle East. An Arab could follow one of many religions, for example they could follow Islam, and therefor would be a Muslim or they could follow the religion of Christianity, and therefore be a Christian.
    A person of Malaysian decent who follows the religion Islam would be a Malay Muslim.

  29. Mic says:

    And what happens if the flag turns out to be a deceptive mis-direction?

  30. Chad Parkhill says:

    Good thing we’re all level-headed adults who aren’t jumping to conclusions about the identity of who is perpetrating the hostage crisis with only the flimsiest of evidence, right?

    This whole thing would be better if we stopped the rampant speculation and waited for the facts to emerge before shooting our mouths off. That’s true no matter whether you’re a crazy “Halal funds terrorism!” Islamophobe, or a lefty conspiracy theorist certain that the government has done it as a false flag operation.

  31. Ralph says:

    Have a little more faith in the good of people.

  32. Taylor Hope says:

    “…inbred bogans prone to drinking and violence out on the streets feeling like these events justify their prejudices”. So in condemning prejudices, it seems like you forgot to concern yourself with your own.

  33. Ralph says:

    Calling a group of people ‘bogans’ and then predicting the actions they will take based on their social class. Well that is a little bit hypocritical isn’t it?

  34. Ralph says:

    My thoughts are with the families of all the hostages. Hoping everyone is returned to their loved ones safely!

  35. Yeshe Thubten says:

    And it works out quite handy for the government too, who generally uses this upswell to their advantage.

  36. Sam says:

    In the USA some news reports of the siege are blurring out the flag.

  37. Sam says:

    Muslim is not a race! For starters. So it is not racism. Fact: This is a Muslim flag. Not liking the person and the people who will use this flag for hate is not racism or whatever the correct word is for people who dislike certain religions.
    People are going to be angry and scared. Threats have been made to this country in the past, threats have been carried out in other countries.

    I am tired of any situation that may make a “non-white person” look bad that everybody tiptoes around the situation and excuses are made and fingers pointed like ‘they were let down by the government’.

    Hostages are taken and a Muslim flag displayed, but you can’t say something about it because you will be accused of being a racist????

    Nobody knows fully what is going on. But what we do know, is a man has taken innocent people hostage and a religious flag has been displayed. So it could well be ISIS related. Don’t bitch out a person for saying it is ISIS when it could well be ISIS. Don’t over react when people don’t share your P.C point of view.

  38. Daren says:

    FANTASTIC. Thank you!

  39. Dont Bother says:

    gunman is a LNP staffer It is all a distraction created by abbott and co to get coverage off their miserable mid-year financial outlook report. The article is spot on that social media can wildly spread fanciful fiction, hell even the real newshounds had no idea what was really going on for a few hours.

  40. Travis458 says:

    Keep Calm And Don’t Speculate? How about:

  41. athousandmonkeys says:

    The delusional ignorance of the left is only exceeded by their hypocrisy.

  42. athousandmonkeys says:

    Ummmmmmmm, islam is NOT a “race”, you ignorant retard!

  43. Tassiedevil08 says:

    How about the MEDIA show the same restraint and stop speculating.

  44. Diane Soper says:

    My daughter was in a building that was under lock down then eventually evacuated. Worried was an understatement. She is safe but to keep calm and go about your business when there are people. someone’s daughters, brothers, moms, dads, in this position held up with crazy people wanting to do nothing but harm others is pretty darn near impossible.

  45. Tez says:

    The alleged person holding people against their will has already threatened to shoot an innocent bystander earlier in the day and was with two other persons. Where are they and what are they up to??? This is a decoy for the main event, something terrible is going to happen very soon. And who do we have to thank for these people doing this in our country?? All the do gooders who wanted them bought here, the lawyers who argued for their human rights, even though they have no concern for the human rights of anyone not Islamic. All these events with hostages, flags, etc are from radical Islamists bought here to enjoy a peaceful life, but only intent on trouble and deceit. Instead of embracing the culture and lifestyle, they come here and make demands that we change to suit their lifestyle. If you don’t like it here, go back and leave us alone. As for those who fund terrorism, finance people to go overseas and fight with these criminal gangs and preach hatred in our society, Hello Federal Police, why are they still here and allowed to do this without being charged and deported and handed over to the authorities of their own country for interrogation. While you’re at it, grab that traitor David Hicks and drop him off to.

  46. Herb says:

    The USA would have been wise to follow these rules, in the case of the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

  47. Andrew says:

    Non violent solution: They could starve him out.. Apparently Lindt isn’t halal listed.
    Poor people inside. I wonder what set him off or if this was organised.

  48. amphibian says:

    A few years back, in central london, blocks and blocks of streets were cordoned off. There was a report of a middle aged man with explosives strapped to his chest. For a while the media said it was a terrorist attack. Later that day, they found out it was an english truck driver with a grievance against a company, and suddenly it became a ‘hostage situation’. Note change of language to describe exactly the same situation and action, just involving different actors and motives. Watch out for that stuff.

  49. GM...Hervey Bay says:

    Drop down by Helicopter and Snipers to shoot the bastard…We’re not going to take that shit

  50. George says:

    Islam is an ideology? As Pauline Hanson would say “Please Explain”. I thought Islam is a religion and Muslim are the one who follows Islam. You know what they say Ignorant = chaos and knowledge = progress! and I hope you are not classified as Mr Ignoramus.

    Well I hope you know they are extremist in every religion even in Buddhism (recently in Burma). Extremism is about power not faith/religion. The leader will manipulate, brain washed and take advantage of their subject in the name of religion or should I say hide in the name of religion.

    As you probably know, well I hope so, they are many gullible subject in the universe. Usually subject who follows extremism have had problem in their life. Their individual problem varied. Tactics successfully used by Hitler. Well Mr Jar of Farts your hate tactics might create a small dint but in the long run your hate will dissolved into oblivion. Good luck with your preaching of hate you are no different than the terrorist imho! Remember Hitler lost the war.

    The most important issue at the moment is I hope this crazy fanatic fundamentalist extremist lone wolf will come to his senses and release the innocent hostages. I will pray for the safety of the hostages.

  51. Wayne Downey says:

    Screw what the pansey liberal crap spewers say. KILL the Muslims! They want to kill the rest of the world that will not conform to them. Lets send a message, WE WILL NOT CONFORM! KILL EM ALL!

  52. Jar_of_Farts says:

    Yes, Islam is an ideology. Look up the meaning of the word, if you don’t understand what it means. And Hitler, as you mentioned him, was allied with prominent Muslim leaders at the time. Look that up too, and learn a little today.

  53. tenja01 says:

    Um Muslim is the people and the culture brought about by following Islam. Islam is the religion.

  54. Haylee Brown says:

    you’re an idiot! enough said

  55. Haylee Brown says:

    Actually your the kind of person we need to cull , moron

  56. Jar_of_Farts says:

    Be quiet, you brainless twat. Adults are speaking.

  57. Zu says:

    Jewish people are not considered as a race. Look it up, genious

  58. Haylee Brown says:

    you don’t seriously consider yourself an adult do you “jar of farts” lmao your an uneducated yobbo with a teenage sense of humour befitting of your “tag”

  59. Brock Hardy says:


  60. Jar_of_Farts says:

    Remember, you’re the one who just jumped in from the side with “you’re an idiot! enough said”, so if that’s your MO, then expect some of the same in return.

    That was your contribution to this. No attempt to argue your point, or tell me why I might be wrong. Nope, just “you’re an idiot”. Then your follow up is equally irrelevant. So yes, I’ll stick with my initial and correct assessment that you’re a brainless twat. You’ve shown it at least twice so far.