Seattle introduces ‘swatting’ protection measures—but does it go far enough?

The Seattle Police Department just launched new safety measures to protect streamers and online personalities from “swatting,” or when a perpetrator phones a fake 911 call in order to send heavily armed police officers to an innocent person’s house. But some internet users think Seattle law enforcement’s solutions place too much onus on the victim and not enough on punishing the aggressor—or policing the police.

In a new page titled “Protect Yourself from Swatting,” the Seattle police revealed that it is working with services Smart 911 and Rave Mobile Safety so residents can create web profiles warning police officers and 911 dispatchers if they are at-risk for swatting. Under Rave Mobile, streamers, online personalities, and other potential victims can tell 911 call takers if swatting concerns are a serious issue due to their career or online persona. From there, if a 911 call is sent to the streamer’s house, the 911 operator will check the resident’s background and warn officers about the resident’s swatting risk.

“If swatting concerns have been registered, this information will be shared with responding officers, who will still proceed to the call,” the Seattle Police Department reports on its official anti-swatting page. “If no location profile exists, officers will still continue to the call. Nothing about this solution is designed to minimize or slow emergency services. At the same time, if information is available, it is more useful for responding officers to have it than to not.”

The Seattle Police Department also demonstrated police protocol in action through a short PSA video detailing a real-life swatting incident. From there, the PSA introduces viewers to the Rave Mobile Safety profile system, which is relatively straightforward to set up. Users can even expand on their risk status under the profile’s “Other Access Info” box.

The new safety feature was first reported by Ars Technica, which warned that every single 911 call “will still receive standard police response, whether or not any swatting concerns are filed.” Not to mention, the profile system still puts the onus on the victim to warn police if they are at risk for swatting. Some internet users have since criticized the Seattle Police Department’s response, noting that there needs to be better police training and criminal prosecution for swatting incidents.

Others believe swatting is tied to much larger concerns about American policing amid an increasingly militarized police force.

Yet some are welcoming the new anti-swatting measures with open arms. It may not be perfect, but the Seattle Police Department is taking a step in the right direction to protect streamers.

The Seattle Police Department stresses that the 911 profile system is an attempt to come up with a solution in a world that doesn’t quite know how to deal with swatting. So while it may be imperfect, at least the police are taking the issue seriously and figuring out how to protect victims from, ironically enough, the police officers themselves.

“This phenomenon, which is a national issue, is quite frankly causing a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety in the community that we serve,” Seattle Police Department Public Affairs Director Sean Whitcomb told Ars Technica. “We know swatting has ended in tragedy in its most vile form. At its most general form, it’s a way to intimidate or harass people. That’s just wrong.”

H/T Kotaku