I’ve played video games online, and I’ve heard some reprehensible things said by other gamers. Combining such a competitive activity with the anonymity of the internet makes the worst type of trash talking imaginable seem somehow acceptable, racist and sexist comments are commonplace.
However, there is a much more frightening phenomenon affecting the online gaming community. It’s know as swatting.
Tyran Hobbs sustained severe injures. (Image source: WJLA-TV)
Swatting has been defined by the FBI as, “making a hoax call to any emergency service to elicit an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident.” These false reports typically result in, “deployment of SWAT units, bomb squads, and other police units, as well as the evacuations of schools, businesses and residences.”
According to U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., every year over 400 SWAT team raids result from these types of false reports.
Along with U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Ma., Meehan introduced a bill named the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act of 2015 to make swatting a federal crime. The bill is currently being reviewed by a congressional committee.
Unfortunately, without such a law in place, it is very difficult to prosecute the perpetrators. As the New York Times has pointed out in an expose about swatting, “right now, many swatters, if charged at all, are charged with misdemeanors.”
The expose entitled “The Serial Swatter,” gives a detailed description of “one of the most disturbing crime sprees in Internet history.” The perpetrator went by the name “Obnoxious,” and was perhaps the most prolific swatter to ever lurk around online.
He found most of his victims on Twitch.tv, an online community for gamers. The site turns online gaming into a spectator sport and certain players develop a large fanbase who watch as they live stream gameplay.
Gamer gets swatted in Denver, Colorado. (Image source: KMGH-TV)
Obnoxious targeted young women on the site, and would harass them mercilessly.
He did DDoS attacks which disrupted their live streaming ability, hacked their social media pages, sent them threatening emails and text messages, blackmailed them into taking nude photographs, and if they didn’t do everything he told them to, he would swat them.
He swatted over 40 women. He was so brazen about it that once he even live streamed himself doing it.
He wasn’t just obnoxious, he was dangerous.
Eventually, he was caught. An underage kid from Canada charged with 46 criminal counts, including criminal harassment, public mischief, and extortion.
Numerous gamers have been swatted while live streaming, either by one of their online opponents or by an anonymous spectator
Several gamers have unintentionally broadcast themselves being swatted.
However, this phenomenon does not only effect the online gaming community. Numerous political activists, online commentators, and even a long list of celebrities have been swatted.
Former US Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Ca., was attempting to pass legislation explicitly prohibiting swatting, and he was swatted.
So what will our society do to deal with the issue of swatting?
What do you think we should do?