In Congress, a member of the House has introduced a bill to make swatting a federal offense.
In an era dominated by social media, it takes a lot to stand out in crowded feed of viral videos and the latest cute cat photos.
Unfortunately, some social media users have tried to gain notoriety by carrying out elaborate pranks on unsuspecting victims. The latest pranks — knowing as “swatting” — involve summoning a police SWAT team to burst into an innocent person’s home.
The pranks are especially common among the gaming community, where many video gamers film themselves playing games and broadcast them online. Swatting pranksters find ways to hack their live feeds and later post the entire prank online. In some cases, the pranksters even manage to stream the prank live to online fans.
Obviously, this creates a number of serious problems, including a waste of valuable police resources and time, not to mention taxpayers’ money.
Even celebrities have fallen victim to swatting stunts. Recently, a swatting prank was carried out on the rapper Lil Wayne when someone called in a false report of shots being fired at his home. Other celebrity swatting victims include Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Tom Cruise.
As swatting has become more common, police and prosecutors have started cracking down on individuals who call in false police reports. In 2015, a 19-year-old gamer from Las Vegas was arrested after he made up a story about a murder in an attempt to convince police to raid another individual’s home. He now faces two counts of computer tampering and additional counts for intimidation, computer fraud, disorderly conduct, and identity theft.
Bill to Make Swatting a Federal Crime
Because people who carry out swatting pranks typically attempt to conceal their identity, it can be difficult for police and federal law enforcement agencies to track them down. In many cases, the pranksters use voiceover-IP to prevent the police from tracing their number. In one case, police in Georgia spent over a year tracing multiple swatting pranks back to a single 16-year-old boy in Canada. According to a Guardian report, the boy had perpetrated swatting pranks against numerous victims, calling schools, businesses, the FBI’s weapons of mass destruction hotline, and even places like Disneyland.
In Congress, a member of the House has introduced a bill to make swatting a federal offense. Shortly after she introduced the bill, she was a victim of a swatting prank. The Congresswoman has also introduced a bill, the Cybercrime Enforcement Training Assistance Act, that would give local police departments $20 million annually to put toward training and investigative techniques for cybercrimes.
Mick Mickelsen explains: “In many cases, state and local laws don’t specifically address these types of cybercrimes. When swatting pranks and similar offenses happen, prosecutors usually have to file charges under different statutes, such as stalking or intimidation. It’s especially difficult for state and local law enforcement to investigate these cases, as many cybercriminals use technology and resources that cross state and even international boundaries. By making swatting a federal crime, prosecutors would have more resources for stopping cybercriminals from hiding behind computer screens.”
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SOURCE: Broden & Mickelsen, LLP