Home Health Dying for a video game (or streaming): what swatting is and how it works

Dying for a video game (or streaming): what swatting is and how it works

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Dying for a video game (or streaming): what swatting is and how it works

The last case is that of Clara Sorrentia very popular trans streamer on Twitch within the Lgbtq community, which has told on YouTube (the video is visible below) how the police broke into the house hers, “put a gun in her face” and held her and interrogated her for hours and then released her.

It all happened in early August in London, a Canadian Ontario citizen: Sorrenti, known online as keffals, explained that “last weekend I woke up with the police knocking on the door” and that “one of the officers pointed an assault rifle at me”. The reason? “Someone had sent an email in my name to all the municipal councilors of the city where I said I was armed, that I had killed my mother and I wanted to go to the Town Hall and shoot to every cisgender person I would meet ”. After being interrogated for a long time, Sorrenti was later released, but the police still confiscated her computer and phone. This is despite the fact that she was most likely a victim of swatting, like the police themselves he admitted in a statement released on August 11.

youtube: the story of Clara Sorrenti

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What is swatting and how it works

Swatting is a practice that is not very widespread in Europe, but a lot in the United States and Canada, which concerns those who play online video games or those who stream: it is a neologism that comes from the initials Swat, which in America indicates the special forces, those who intervene in the event of a terrorist attack, hostage-taking and so on. It’s called that because that’s how it’s done: you send the assault forces to someone’s home.

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The phenomenon was born in the world of gaming: two or more people who are facing each other online they dare to send Swat to each other’s home; or they argue and one of them tries to send the police to the house of one of the others. It is done as a joke (but with consequences that can also be dramatic), to scare the other person, to get them into trouble or more simply to distract them from the game and win.

To organize a swatting is enough have the home address of the person you want to target, make an anonymous phone call to the police and report some suspicious activity, more or less certain of an intervention quickly. In the case of Smilingwho organized everything went much further, with a fake email sent to dozens of people and a concrete and plausible threat that triggered the immediate intervention of the police.

google maps: the house where Andrew Finch lived

Swatting can also die

The best known and most dramatic case of swatting occurred in December 2017 in Wichita, Kansas, and led to the death of a young man of 28, Andrew Finch, then the father of two children. During an online game a Call of Duty, two people (Casey Viner and Tyler Barriss) challenged each other to swatt each other: “I’ll be waiting for you at 1033 McCormick street, in Wichita”, said the first to the second. Only that wasn’t his address, but Finch’s address (map above).

After Barriss’s phone call, in which the young man had signaled the presence of someone who had “taken a family hostage” and had “already killed at least one person”, the special forces showed up in front of the house: when Finch went out on the porch to see what was happening and he raised his arm, a policeman fired a single shot and killed him.

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Viner and Barriss were then sentenced to 15 months and 20 years in prison respectively, and since then many states in the US (such as Ohio and Kentucky) have introduced laws that make swatting a crime, although in many others this does not happen. And in general, they are laws that are difficult to enforcebecause those who make the anonymous phone call (or send a fake email) can easily hide their identity, call from a cloned number, change their IP address or even hide behind a VPN.


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Why swatting and how to (try to) defend yourself

The need to find countermeasures, however, is getting stronger, because swatting, previously limited to the world of gamersis rapidly expanding to streamers on Twitch and YouTube.

Why does this happen? We have seen that everything can be born as a joke (in bad taste) or as a way to win it in the virtual world with a trick in the real one, but as far as creators are concerned, there are other reasons. And Sorrenti’s case represents them well: behind her case of swatting there is a work of organization and programming that took time, and was probably done to put her in difficulty and hinder her dissemination work on gender identity. Because when the police come into your house, o when the police confiscate your equipmentit is difficult for you to continue broadcasting live.

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In the last couple of years, very popular streamers on Twitch, like Félix Lengyel or the very popular Amouranththey told of be victims of swatting even “several times a week”. Other, as also recalled by the Washington Postunderwent swatting while they were live, with spectators who saw the police raid their homes: it is the case of Adin Ross (video above)Nadia Amine e Darren Watkins.

Sorrenti has organized a fundraiser on GoFundMe to move house, buy back equipment and face the legal costs of “current and future threats to my safety”, but defending against these attacks is not easy: in some American states, police departments have a list of “sensitive addresses” in which those of possible swatting victims are also stored, so that agents know that it is appropriate to intervene with caution. Some creators have asked Twitch to give law enforcement the addresses of potential swatting targetsbut from the platform they replied that this would violate the rules on sensitive data and privacy: “Over the past two years, as our audience has grown, we have quadrupled the size of our rapid response team to law enforcement, which works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week “.

In short, the advice is to do this: contact the police as quickly as possible if you are concerned about being a victim (or a victim) of swatting. Hoping to notice before it’s late, of course.

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