The Internet gives people a measure of anonymity, which can lead to them saying or doing things they would not think about doing in person. People in Alaska and elsewhere need to understand that there is a line that can be crossed, even online where they feel they are safe enough to get away with anything. You may have heard about the online prank known as “swatting,” without realizing the serious repercussions that can result from this type of joke.
As you may know, the swatting prank receives its name from pranksters’ intent of drawing armed law enforcement or SWAT teams to an innocent person’s address. These pranks usually stem from disagreements over online games, but targets can also include celebrities, political figures or public buildings. The “swatter” makes a false call to authorities, usually indicating violence, and provides the target’s address for law enforcement.
The story about a swatting incident gone wrong in Wichita, Kansas, may already be familiar to you. According to KTUU News, the California man who made the false call to police has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, which is believed to be the longest sentence anyone has received for swatting. As you may recall, the officers who showed up at the Kansas man’s house in 2017, believing he had killed several family members and was holding others hostage, shot and killed the unarmed man when they thought he was reaching for a weapon.
It may be easy to think that your actions online do not have real-life consequences, but the above example proves this is untrue. However, you are entitled to a competent defense if you are accused of a crime.