With all the talk about online harassment that’s been going on over the past year, a lot more attention has been drawn to ‘swatting’, the act of calling the police with a phony tip or threat in order to get a swat team sent to the home of whomever you don’t like. Yeah, it’s just about as awful as it sounds. And with all that other talk about police violence these days, it’s a wonder that someone has yet to be killed from these little internet ‘pranks’.
Just recently a teenager from British Columbia plead guilty 23 charges of various offences all relating to his prolific swatting of multiple girls and young women who had rejected his romantic advances in League of Legends (because of-fucking-course that was his motive). As part of this spree the kid called in bomb threats to Disneyland, threatened to shoot up a Florida high school and stalked a woman to the point where she lost control of her email and twitter accounts, had her phone bombarded with hundreds of text messages, had her parents’ credit card information stolen and released online and was ultimately forced to drop out of university due to the harassment.
Despite this grim description of what a bored high school sociopath can accomplish, the arrest and approaching sentencing is pretty good news. The law has always been pretty far behind technology and cases of online stalking and harassment have rarely gotten the attention that they deserve. But the worn-out advice of “just turn the computer off” is a tad hard to follow while you’re being dragged out of your house at gunpoint and authorities are now finally beginning to see that telling that to victims of stalking and harassment really doesn’t do anything to help. The fact that these swattings are wasting police time and resources probably doesn’t hurt things either.
Someone close to me was swatted along with her family not long ago.
I had taken a sleeping pill and I was woken at 2am by someone banging on the window. [My husband] was away visiting his mum with his kids so it was just me [and my two sons]. I thought [my eldest son] had got locked out,” she told me when I asked her about the experience.
So I stumbled to the door and opened it without putting on my glasses. There were loads of cop cars outside and the police were yelling at me, but I was so out of it I had no idea what was going on. They said something about someone being stabbed at our address and if anyone was in the basement. I think they told me to wait upstairs, but I was afraid for [my son] so when they went around the back I ran downstairs. I opened the back door for them and they were really pissed off and dragged me into the back yard yelling at me to get away from the house, but I didn’t have my glasses on so I didn’t know which way to go.
They they banged on [my son’s] door and told him to open up and he thought his friends were pranking him and said no. Eventually he did open up and the police realised that no one was being stabbed. I didn’t realise until [he] told me afterwards that they had automatic rifles as I couldn’t see. I think I would have totally freaked out and I am surprised I didn’t get shot because I didn’t do anything they told me to do.
It’s only a matter of time before someone is killed by being swatted, and I don’t want to be the poor idiot behind it when a charge for harassment and false reporting turns into one for manslaughter.