Social media users share fake Sky News posts about Sydney mall attack

Sky News did not describe the mass stabbings at a Sydney mall in April 2024 as a "Muslim Terrorist Attack", contrary to social media posts sharing fake screenshots of the UK broadcaster's X account. AFP found no evidence that the purported posts -- which showed signs of manipulation -- were ever published, or that Sky News used the phrase in its reporting of the Bondi Junction killings.

"Behind any attack carried by a Non Muslim it's always a mentally I'll (sic) person," read part of an April 14 Facebook post alongside an image of purported Sky News posts on X about the Sydney mall stabbings.

Shared one day after a man fatally stabbed six people at the Bondi Junction shopping complex, the Facebook post went on to falsely claim nine people were killed in the attack.

The attached image shows two purported Sky News X posts about the incident -- supposedly from before and after the attacker was identified.

The first purported X post falsely suggested Sky News reported the incident as a "Suspected Radical Islamic Jihadi Muslim Terrorist Attack", while the second read: "Mentally Ill Man Accidentally Causes Multiple Fatalities in Public Shooting."

<span>Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 15, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on May 15, 2024

On April 13, 2024, police shot dead Joel Cauchi, bringing an end to his deadly mall rampage. The following day, police revealed he had a history of mental illness (archived link).

The fake Sky News posts spread globally on Instagram, Threads, TikTok, LinkedIn9GAG and X.

Baseless claim

AFP found no evidence that Sky News described the stabbings as a "Muslim Terrorist Attack" in its reporting (archived link).

Google keyword searches only retrieved other false posts sharing the claim, and fact checks from other organisations debunking it.

Using X's advanced search feature, AFP also found no trace of the alleged posts, as shown in the screenshot below:

<span>Screenshots showing results using X's advanced search</span>
Screenshots showing results using X's advanced search

Visual clues

Other visual clues in the manipulated image indicated it did not show genuine posts from Sky News.

The first purported Sky News post about the attack on X was dated two days old, meaning it would have predated the stabbings by at least one day if it was captured on April 14, as highlighted below by AFP:

<span>The first fake post predated the Bondi Junction attack</span>
The first fake post predated the Bondi Junction attack

The second purported X post from Sky News -- dated one day old -- says a man caused "multiple fatalities" in a "public shooting", which is false, as Cauchi used a knife to kill his victims before he was shot dead by police.

Nick Sutton, who heads digital output at Sky, also pointed out in a May 15 email that the fake posts were not written in his network's style.

"The main style difference is the capitalisation of almost every word in the tweets which we don’t do," he told AFP.

Below is a comparison of the fake X posts (left) and Sky News' real reporting of the Sydney mall attack (right):

<span>Screenshot comparisons of the fake reporting (left) and Sky News' real reporting (right)</span>
Screenshot comparisons of the fake reporting (left) and Sky News' real reporting (right)

Sutton first addressed the claim by replying to an X post by an account with a large following (archived link).

"I'm not sure where you got these screenshots from. But they are not genuine Sky News tweets about the Sydney attack," he replied, sharing a log of everything he said Sky News posted on the attack.

There was no mention of terrorism in the list he shared, as shown below:

<span>Sky News' head of digital output posted a log of everything his network had posted on the Bondi Junction attack</span>
Sky News' head of digital output posted a log of everything his network had posted on the Bondi Junction attack

The New South Wales government said on April 15 that it had allocated Aus$18 million ($12 million) in additional funding for an inquest into the killings however as of May, no timeline has been announced for the court proceedings (archived link).

AFP has debunked multiple false claims about the attack in Bondi Junction here and here.