An internet jokester who called the cops on someone live-streaming a videogame faces up to five years in jail, according to a report in the Chicago-Sun Times.

The practice has become so commonplace in the last year or so that it has earned itself a name: “swatting”. Basically, someone watching a stream on a service like Twitch.tv learns the streamer’s physical address and then calls the cops to report a serious crime at that location, like murder; a SWAT van full of heavily-armoured and armed cops then rocks up on the guy’s doorstep looking for hardcore criminals.

As you can imagine, the cops arrive more prepared to shoot than talk, but fortunately nobody has been hurt so far; however it’s not outside the realm of probability that a future situation will go pear-shaped.

For the swatter, it’s the perfect internet-joke-made-real – that is, it’s dangerous, stupid and juvenile but with no real consequences. They get to watch the proceeds live, on-camera while seriously messing the streamer around without any risk of being identified or prosecuted.

At least, that’s what the majority of SWATters believe. Thanks to law enforcement agencies from three separate states working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that is starting to change. 19-year-old Brandon “Famed God” Wilson, a Nevada resident was arrested over the weekend for his involvement in a SWATting attack in Illinois, as well as illegally obtaining personal information and using his computer to report a crime that didn’t exist.

The Sun-Times writes that proof of his involvement in the Illinois attack and other such incidents across the US was gathered from his home in Las Vegas.

Wilson may face more charges as law enforcement agencies continue to investigate, and if a state legislator from Illinois gets his way, future swatters will also have to repay the municipalities for the time and resources wasted. It’s only fair, really.

The message is to think before doing this sort of thing, because the relative anonymity afforded by the internet is not enough to guarantee you won’t be caught anymore. Not with determined law enforcement agencies actively investigating swatting incidents.

[Source – Chicago Sun-Times, Image – CC BY-ND 2.0]
Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.