Last week three pranksters from Melbourne were charged with public nuisance, possessing a prohibited weapon and behaving in an offensive manner in a public place after a conducting a series of pranks that replicated a terrorist attack.
The Australian public and the media were outraged when the three boys uploaded a video to their Facebook and YouTube accounts of a prank which depicted a terrorist shooting involving a young girl.
The three boys who go by the name of the Jalal brothers are well known for their controversial pranks – in 2015 there was backlash after the boys conducted a prank depicting a terrorist attack involving a “bomb” in a backpack which they threw at unsuspecting passerby’s.
The boys have recently come out and confessed that the drive by shooting prank was staged and all participants were actors. However, this does not excuse them from earlier pranks whereby the aim was to also incite fear and cause panic. There is nothing humorous about frightening people into believing they are involved in a terrorist attack.
As Waleed Aly from Channel 10’s The Project pointed out a terrorist attack “is not a hypothetical fictional idea to people right now”. Only two weeks ago Former White House counter terrorism adviser David Kilcullen said there is a 100% chance there will be another attack on Australian soil. Therefore, during a time where there is a higher threat of a terrorist attack these types of pranks (as we saw with the recent spate of hoax bomb threats to Australian schools) are irresponsible.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Ross Guenther stated that the prank “caused some significant alarm and anxiety in our community at a time when we already have a heightened security environment”. It must be said that these types of pranks can no longer be viewed as harmless jokes. The pranks that the Jalal brothers upload have more sinister implications than simply scaring people by replicating a terrorist attack.
The Jalal brothers broadcast their pranks to millions of viewers worldwide. There is the possibility that these videos could fall into the wrong hands. Although meant to be humorous the pranks unintentionally showcase the ease in which an active shooter or a person with a bomb could carry out an attack in Australia.
Additionally, these pranks have the potential to seriously injure both the unsuspecting people and the pranksters themselves. Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said people could respond violently being a victim to this type of prank. “Or they could have a health scare as a result but also what happens if there was a police officer present who witnessed that, it could be a very deadly situation”. There have been multiple cases whereby a prank has ended badly – in which the person being pranked has reacted by shooting and killing the prankster.
Businesses need to be ready for any situation where there is a risk to the safety of bystanders and staff. Incidents that are deemed hoaxes have the ability to severely highlight weaknesses in a company’s crisis management response.