Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg has become the target of online conspiracies and threats ever since he emerged as an outspoken advocate for gun control. On Tuesday morning, someone targeted the Parkland massacre survivor’s family home with one of the cruelest forms of online harassment: “swatting.”
Swatting involves placing a fake emergency call to a local law enforcement agency in the hopes of drawing armed officers to a victim’s home. Gaming live-streamers were early targets, as online bad actors relished in the possibility of watching someone confronted on camera by a bunch of men in SWAT gear, holding guns. It’s expanded to become a cruel way to target online enemies and victims of harassment, or anyone experiencing viral fame.
The Broward County Sheriff’s department received an anonymous call Tuesday claiming that there was a hostage situation in the home, according to the local ABC affiliate. When authorities showed up at the home to respond to the call, they determined it had been a prank. A spokesman from the sheriff’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Washington Post seeking more information.
Hogg is in Washington, D.C., with his mother to accept the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, ABC reported. Hogg recently graduated from high school and has said he will take a year off before attending college to continue his advocacy “not just around gun control, but around youth voter turnout.”
“Swatting” is often called a prank. But it’s much more dangerous than that word connotes. Late last year, a dispute over a video game allegedly led to a swatting call that left one Wichita man dead, when police arrived at the home falsely expecting to confront an armed man who was holding his family hostage.
Hogg, along with a group of other Parkland survivors, responded to the shooting at their school by becoming outspoken, viral advocates for increased gun control, arguing that the measures were needed to prevent another massacre like the one that killed their classmates. That advocacy made Hogg, Emma González and other Parkland students the targets of online harassment and conspiracy theories.
The personal attacks on Hogg and Gonzalez infiltrated more mainstream criticism of the teens’ policy advocacy in the weeks that followed the shooting. In April, conservative TV personality Jamie Allman resigned from the Sinclair Broadcast Group after tweeting that he was “getting ready” to sexually assault Hogg with a “hot poker.” Laura Ingraham mocked Hogg in late March for not getting accepted into his top college choice, prompting calls for an advertising boycott. Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing personality who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump, took less than a week after the shooting to start mocking the Parkland teens on Twitter.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Abby Ohlheiser