On August 1, 2015, popular Twitch.tv streamer Tim “Trick2G” Foley celebrated his channel reaching 800,000 followers by faking that his house had been raided by a SWAT team. The practice of faking a 911 call that results in a SWAT team being sent to someone’s house is known as “swatting,” and is unfortunately too common within the gaming community. Although Trick2G faked that he was swatted, likely as a publicity stunt, his actions have resurrected the discussion about the consequences of swatting.
Make no mistake, a person who engages in swatting is committing a criminal offense. Effectively, swatting is the false reporting of a crime. In New York, falsifying the report of a crime is a serious offense, as it can be classified as an A Misdemeanor (the most severe misdemeanor), E felony (the least severe felony charge), or a D felony. Also, such offenses are not looked upon kindly by Courts, who obviously want to discourage such behavior. When examining the severity of the charges, this means people found guilty of such offenses are likely facing jail time. If convicted of the most serious of these crimes in New York, the Defendant could be facing up to seven years in jail. Granted, different States will vary in terms of their punishments of these offenses, but the importance of preventing such conduct from occurring is universal.
Additionally, as swatting has expanded beyond the gaming community, some States have sought to increase the criminal penalties associated with swatting. For instance, a New Jersey lawmaker has proposed that people who engage in swatting be punished by ten to 15 years in jail and a $150,000 fine. Unfortunately, the lawmaker who made this proposal was then swatted himself. Such misguided action isn’t going to deter the push for stricter punishments, but will likely reinforce the efforts.
Being swatted is a double edged sword for a person’s business endeavors. On one hand, news of being swatted would likely translate into an increase in views for a streamer’s channel, likely resulting in increased revenue. However, the viewership bump may fade. The increase in views can also be seen when the swatting is faked, as was the case with Trick2G. Since his fake swatting eighteen days ago, the followers of Trick2G's channel have increased by roughly 37,000. In raw numbers alone, the increase in followers could potentially help Trick2G gain more sponsorships (assuming the sponsor does little to no research on how the followers were gained), which could lead to increased revenue.
On the other hand, swatting also makes brands very nervous, and perhaps limits their involvement in sponsoring streamers. Given that being swatted creates an intensely pressurized situation, there is no telling how people will react under those circumstances. No brand wants to be associated with someone who does something stupid, much less a person who does something stupid with an armed swat team in their presence. Being swatted can amount to bad publicity for a sponsor, especially if someone becomes physically injured. Additionally, should a sponsored person fake that they were swatted, a sponsor could consider such activity brand damaging behavior, and invoke a sponsorship’s morals clause to exit the agreement. Further, a history of faking being swatted may discourage brands from sponsoring that individual.
Swatting is not pulling a prank on someone, but is actually criminal activity. Falsifying the report of an incident is a crime across the country that Courts do not look favorably upon, and will likely result in significant jail time. While being swatted may cause a viewership bump that could result in additional revenue, brands are uncomfortable with their potential sponsees being swatted for fear of the damage it can cause the brand. Swatting is not something that should be taken lightly, whether real or fake. Although Twitch banned Trick2G for a day, thereby costing him streaming income for that day, the legal severity of swatting should have necessitated a harsher penalty so as to discourage such behavior in the future. No one should engage in such behavior, whether real or fake.
(Photo used under creative commons from Christopher Chong)
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