After a standoff at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney, Australia where gunman Man Haron Monis had been holding 17 hostages, the 16-hour catastrophe finally came to an end when commandos stormed the building due to an imminent threat, which unfortunately left three people dead, including the assailant.
What is interesting about the incident is how social media was used as a force multiplier that allowed Man Haron Monis to not only voice demands to law enforcement personnel, but also make his demands public so they can be seen by others throughout the world. He did this by forcing hostages to post his demands on their own social networking profiles, thus producing a snowball effect.
“The gunman also had released videos, through some hostages, stating that he wanted an Islamic State flag and a phone call from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott,” according to an article from USA Today.
The most alarming aspect of this situation is that social media was used as a weapon to produce harm and instill fear. It is not the social media posts themselves that will directly cause harm, but instead the approach and ideology reaching the masses and inspiring other lone wolf attacks — something that ISIS has pushed for all along.
Additionally, during the hostage negotiations the use of social media could have potentially led to the breakdown in communications given the lack of a sterile environment. Without an insulated, linear form of communication outside forces via social media could have influenced the actions of Man Haron Monis, though we won’t know for sure until a full investigation has been completed.
This is another prime example of the importance of monitoring social media channels for potential threats and tracking conversations on social media during major incidents, such as this one.