When you spend a great deal of time online, it is easy for the line between reality and the virtual world to become blurred. You and others in California and elsewhere might never consider hurling insults, swearing or threatening a stranger on the street, but it can seem for many people that basic rules of decency do not apply in comment sections or chat rooms. When you are in the middle of an intense multi-player online game and rely on others to help you succeed, the emotionally charged atmosphere can make it even easier to say or do something you normally would never have considered doing.
People have been insulting or threatening others online for as long as the Internet has existed. Many of these arguments are harmless. However, other online behaviors cross the line into criminal activity, and may result in severe consequences. You may have heard of “swatting,” which is a cyberprank that authorities take seriously because of its highly dangerous nature.
Swatting results in man’s death
Recently, a Los Angeles man played this prank on someone in Wichita, Kansas, after another person contacted the Californian and asked him to “swat” the man. Allegedly, the Kansas man was involved in an argument during an online game, and the other player wanted the prank done in retribution. The Los Angeles man – who was known in the gaming community for making false alarm reports to authorities – called Wichita police and said there was a hostage situation in which one of the man’s family members had been shot. Officers showed up at the unsuspecting man’s home and fatally shot him when they thought he was reaching for a weapon.
Law enforcement arrested the online prankster for making a false charge to authorities and now faces felony charges. He is currently being held without bail until he can be transferred to Wichita for prosecution.
Common sense might avoid an unpleasant outcome
It is understandable that someone’s words or actions online could annoy or infuriate you. While it might feel good to react by making threats or playing a prank, it may be smarter to avoid saying or doing anything that could incriminate you in a crime.