Rape threats, death threats, and finally ‘swatting’

By WND Staff

Sharyl Attkisson 12-20-15

Think online gaming is all fun and games? Think again.

In an investigative piece for Full Measure, Jon Humbert with KOMO in Seattle reported on the dark side of gaming.

Online video gaming has become an enormous industry, with sales upwards of $15 billion in 2014. But as graphics, technology and popularity increase, gaming has become darker.

“Everyone games now,” says web developer Israel Galvez. “We’re not all the basement dwellers living in our mom’s basement.”

Gaming took a sinister turn in August 2014 with harassment against several women working in the video-game industry, including game developers and cultural critics. The women were calling for less sexualized stereotypes of female characters, less violence, higher ethical standards and less misogyny in online games. The harassment against the women became coordinated, and escalated to include threats of rape and death, and – most notably – “doxxing.” This is when “docs” are published with personal information on victims and their family members in hopes that someone else will use the information to harass and intimidate them.

Collectively, this controversy became known as Gamergate. Supporters of Gamergate oppose any attempts to impose social justice or feminine ideologies on the video game culture. Some call it a backlash against political correctness, but it goes deeper than that. “Bitter towards feminism,” said Galvez. “There are lots of men’s rights activists involved.”

Now the stakes have moved higher. Where once childish pranks might be pulled – such as ordering take-out food to be delivered to the victim’s door along with demands for payment of the meal – now it has morphing into something much more dangerous: accusations of threats that can bring SWAT teams. These kinds of false accusations are termed “swatting,” a prank call that brings police, emergency officials or even SWAT teams to the victim’s doorstep.

Galvez says swatters are basically domestic terrorists when taken to this level. He is a prolific poster on Twitter and writes about the gaming industry, urging game makers to focus less on gender stereotypes and be more inclusive. Earlier this year, Galvez noticed internet forum posts suggesting retaliation against him for those reform-minded views. He found himself the victim of “doxxing.”

“They posted my information,” he said, “my wife’s information, my father’s information.”

Once the group had Galvez’s personal details, including his address, they sent his information to community colleges, car dealerships and magazine subscription services. After reading the escalating tone in the posts, Galvez went to the police because of his concerns someone might send in a hoax threat.

Sure enough, police got an untraceable, anonymous tip, totally false, that alleged Galvez was ready to “unleash hell” with pipe bombs and a new gun.

“Next thing I know, at 11:50 pm, I had five … police officers at my door.”

There was no harm that night because Galvez had warned police. But swatting is not a joke.

“Posting personal information about targets isn’t uncommon on the internet,” notes The Verge, “but swatting is a particularly risky and extreme method of harassment. Previously, SWAT teams have been sent after security researcher Brian Krebs, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, and a Bungie executive, among others. While these have all ended safely, police have inadvertently injured and even killed innocent people during other raids, and law enforcement is seeking clues on the culprit behind this particular swatting.”

Former Gamergate supporter Grace Lynn had 20 police officers show up at her former home in Portland, Oregon in early January 2015, after an anonymous caller claimed he had taken “multiple hostages and was threatening violence.”

All this because of video games.

The Gamergate refusal to accept changes in the gaming industry is a cultural shift that some male gamers cannot accept, according to Galvez. He says Gamergate’s intention for reform metastasized into a crusade against anyone who wants a change in the status quo. “If Gamergate was really about ethics and game journalism, I don’t think we would be seeing all the harassment, all the stalking, all the death threats, all the rape threats.”

Even Gamergaters admit the problem is with the dark side of the web, where serious threats can come out of nowhere. “Swatting can be tough for law enforcement to handle, no matter where it comes from,” concludes Humbert. “In July, the Department of Justice told popular D.C. cyber-blogger Brian Krebs that his swatter pled guilty in federal court. But Krebs was swatted in 2013 – a slow sense of justice for a fast-moving controversy.”

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