Lawmakers Move To Criminalize “Swatting” As Women Are Targeted Online

Rep. Katherine Clark is advancing federal protections against severe online harassment.
The law often lags behind technology. For women and other marginalized groups, that lag can often mean the justice system is ill-equipped to enforce laws against new forms of abuse, like online stalking and publishing nonconsensual pornography.
Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, wants that to change. Along with Patrick Meehan, a Republican from Pennsylvania, Clark wants to put an end to yet another internet-enabled form of abuse: “swatting,” in which emergency responders are intentionally dispatched to someone’s home without the person’s knowledge.
“Perpetrators of these hoaxes purposefully use our emergency responders to harm their victims,” Clark said in a statement to BuzzFeed news. Through legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, Clark and Meehan hope to criminalize swatting, which they say endangers law enforcement officers and has provoked “heart attacks and serious injury” to those targeted by false emergency calls. More than 400 swatting attacks occur each year, according to the FBI, with a cost to local law enforcement totaling as much as $100,000 per incident.