On May 15th, a 17-year-old Canadian boy pleaded guilty to 12 charges of swatting gamers over the last year.
“Swatting” is when a harasser calls the police to report a fake threat. The intention is to get a SWAT team sent to the target’s home. Swatting often involves fake reports of hostage situations or bomb threats—crimes that officers must take seriously. It’s incredibly dangerous for the victims. SWAT teams are heavily armed and they expect a threat. On top of that, mobilizing a SWAT team is a huge waste of police time and money.
Swatting is also illegal. The charges brought against the teen are public mischief, extortion, and criminal harassment.
Many of his victims were women who he stalked online after they refused to send him pictures or follow him on Twitter. In one case, the victim was forced to withdraw from school after incessant harassment. This included phone calls and text messages, as well as hacking of her online accounts.
These kinds of online threats are difficult for law enforcement to handle. Local police departments are not equipped to respond to threats that might come from across the country. There is also a sense of confusion when those threats seem to only exist online. What we need to understand is that online threats are no different from harassment in real life and need to be dealt with seriously.
In this case, the perpetrator will undergo a supplemental psychiatric assessment. The hearing will continue on June 29. He was caught after reporting a fake threat while streaming a live video feed on the internet. Viewers reported him to the police.
This kind of behavior is not the norm. But that doesn’t mean it should be trivialized. Teenagers aren’t the only ones who assume that online actions don’t have consequences. Online harassment is a serious crime. Conversation around it needs to change, and that’s where parental involvement is crucial. Talking to kids about it means they’re far less likely to became harassers—or victims.