Swatting Becoming a Larger Issue Than Ever (CA Assembly Bill 47)

The world of video gaming is immense and complicated.  All too often, gamers become more heavily involved in the gaming world than they are in their real lives.  This subject has been the source of many debates concerning video games and their ‘addictive’ qualities.  One extreme example is this: on Thanksgiving Day of 2001, John Doe’s mother found him dead in front of the game Everquest, (name withheld in order to protect the privacy) his papers and notes strewn about him and the chair he was sitting in when he decided to end his own life.  While it was never determined whether he committed suicide as a direct consequence of being heavily involved in this never-ending quest game, he had been enrolled in several different treatment programs for video game addiction, considered by some psychologists to be as serious as an addiction to harmful drugs.  Debates about ‘SWATting’ are the next big thing to hit ethicists and legal minds since gaming ‘addiction.’

SWATting is one way that gamers in the video game world can exact real-world revenge on other players.  A phone call is made, either to the police or to 911 and a person pretending to be someone else forces the police or other law enforcement officials to go to the scene of the fake crime.  When they get there, they do not find what they expected to, but just gamers in front of their computers.  SF Gate reported recently that, “One caller said he shot his co-workers at a Colorado video game company and had hostages.  Another in Florida said her father was drunk, wielding a machine gun and threatening their family.  A third caller on New York’s Long Island claimed to have killed his mother and threatened to shoot first responders.”

As you can see, these are not harmless pranks and the police are set to take them more seriously in the future.  In 2013, the California legislature put forth an anti-SWATting bill (AB 47) that forces perpetrators falsifying a report of a crime to pay back the thousands of dollars spent to launch an investigation of these fake crimes.  It was signed into law that same year and took effect on January of 2014.  Estimated costs for police are around $10,000 per false phone call.