The Rise of Swatting: Just a Prank? Or Domestic Terrorism?

This is an introductory article to a bigger topic. Here’s the link to the other article whenever I have posted it.

Introduction

Today, we’re going to talk about an increasingly common crime type in this digitised age. Swatting is a term coined to describe instances of false police reports that result in the forceful entering of a person’s home and potential injury of a person(s) thereafter. It happens mostly to people who are known among the online community; people like streamers are especially targeted.

Causes

The first instance of swatting was committed by a fifteen-year-old named Paul Horner who reported a murder/hostage situation in a rival gamer’s house after tracing his location. A SWAT team arrived to break into his house and shot and severely injured his father. Paul Horner was then charged with two counts of domestic terrorism.

Since 2008, when the term was coined, there has been an increasing number of fake police calls. These calls not only endanger innocent lives but also waste money and resources. So far, the FBI has not released concrete statistics pertaining to swatting.

Usually, the person getting swatted is a public figure. Celebrities were a common target. But now, the main focus of most of these attacks have turned to the online gaming community where in-game rivalries and clashing online personalities can quickly turn toxic. The anonymity of swatting also encourages potential swatters. Because of various online tools as well as other anonymous ways to make calls (like pay phones), swatters have a measure of safety from law enforcement. There have also been cases where the swatter called in from outside the country, meaning that either the police has to let go of the case or that Interpol has to be called in. There have been successful arrests of swatters who were outside the country.

This sort of anonymity paired with the high visibility if and when the SWAT team arrives means that the swatter is relatively safe while also being able to watch everything unfold on the livestream. This sort of situation is perfect for those who like to cause trouble while minimising risk to themselves. It is, you could say, a type of voyeurism.

Conclusion

So if you or any of the streamers you watch are getting threats that someone is going to swat them, then report it. There have been cases where, following protocol, SWAT teams have injured people because they didn’t follow instructions or such. Police have begun to mark out houses where potential swatting calls may be directed at so that SWAT teams no longer get sent in to those places.

As for prison sentences, it can be anywhere from a year in jail with a fine to over a decade in jail. The most severe cases get charged with domestic terrorism and some states are passing bills that will make prison sentences for swatting more severe. Even if you use internet services that let you make calls anonymously, there are ways to trace you. So, for the safety of everyone and to help stop this senseless result of online butthurtedness and trollery, take swatting very seriously and if you get swatted, do exactly as the police say. It’s not worth it getting shot in the face and swatting is certainly more than just a prank.

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