Internet trolls are attempting to get police Swat teams sent to the homes of critics of Gamergate in an escalation of intimidatory tactics.
Five police officers were sent to the home of a Seattle-area web developer after an anonymous tip was phoned in, in the latest attempted “swatting” attack linked to the Gamergate movement.
Swatting – also known as “SWATing” – involves placing hoax distress calls to police departments in an attempt to encourage the dispatch of an armed response team to the targeted address.
Such hoaxes – which more commonly involve the sending of takeaway food to be paid for on delivery – can be conducted from anywhere in the world with little chance of the culprit being traced, making them a popular intimidation tool.
Web developer Israel Galvez, the most recent swatting target, is a prominent opponent of Gamergate, a movement opposed to the increasing prominence of feminist critics and designers in gaming.
Aware of the use of swatting, Galvez had warned his local police department that they may receive such hoax calls, in order to prevent a full scale police response with the potential for a tragic outcome.
Heavily-armed police units have been known to respond to calls with overwhelming force. In October, a man in Utah was shot and killed by a Swat team dispatched after he had called a suicide hotline, and in November, a Swat team was videoed shooting and killing a dog after responding to a dispute between neighbours.
The swatting incident, the second this week linked with Gamergate, was co-ordinated on the “baphomet” subforum of the 8chan image board, a 4chan-style community which has become a hub of the movement, along with a subforum on the social news site Reddit.
Once the group had Galvez’s personal details, including his address, they sent his information to community colleges, car dealerships, and magazine subscription services, before making the hoax distress call to police.
The board also attempted to swat a former member-turned-critic, Grace Lynn, successfully sending 20 police officers to her former home in Portland, Oregon , in early January. An anonymous caller claimed he had taken “multiple hostages and was threatening violence”, according to local newspaper reports.
The term swatting dates back to at least 2008 . But the practice has become more serious in recent years, with a campaign in 2013 to swat multiple celebrities including Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher.
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