Another gamer convicted of swatting online opponent - Dexerto
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Another gamer convicted of swatting online opponent

Published: 13/Sep/2019 1:39 Updated: 13/Sep/2019 4:14

by Andrew Amos

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An American man has pleaded guilty to swatting an opponent across the country following a gaming-related argument.

A Pennsylvania gamer has confessed in court that he swatted a Florida-based player after an argument online. 

Nicholas Huffine pleaded guilty to one charge of interstate threats in Federal Court for the incident in January 2017. He will face up to five years imprisonment, or a $250,000 fine.

PixabayPolice responded to a swatting call after a dispute over a game.

Swatting involves a person making a hoax call to the police about a serious crime at another person’s house. Often hostage situations or bomb threats are claimed, which means the police have to act with a full emergency response.

According to a Department of Justice report, Huffine admitted to calling police in Florida, saying someone was armed and holding a family hostage at a home in Winter Garden. This was after Huffine and the unknown man had a dispute over a game, although the court did not say what game was involved.

While there were no injuries, there was significant damage to the property after the police had to forcibly enter. Huffine was indicted in June 2017, six months after the incident.

US State Attorney Scott W. Brady said in court that swatting is an incredibly dangerous act that puts the lives of innocent people at danger.

“Swatting is terrifying to victims, as well as highly dangerous as law enforcement agents operate under the belief that they are responding to the scene of active and ongoing violent criminal activity.”

The Wichita EagleTyler Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in jail after swatting a Call of Duty opponent, leading to their death.

Earlier this year, Tyler Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in jail after swatting an opponent in 2017 over a $2 Call of Duty wager match, leading to their death. 

The Barriss swatting case led to a change in Kansas state law surrounding false alarms made to police that result in death, with the crime now carrying a minimum ten year prison term.

Huffine will face court against on January 9, 2020 for sentencing.

Opinion

AOC’s Twitch stream is the 2020 version of shaking hands & kissing babies

Published: 21/Oct/2020 16:15 Updated: 21/Oct/2020 16:31

by Chris Stokel-Walker

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A first-time Twitch streamer managing to hit the top five most engaged Twitch streams of all time is news in any instance, but when the streamer is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, it’s even more newsworthy.

At its peak, AOC’s stream of Among Us, which also featured Pokimane and Dr Lupo, had 439,000 viewers. The broadcast was seen 4.6 million times in the eight hours after it ended. These are huge numbers, and indicate AOC’s tech literacy – something few politicians seem to possess. But it’s also an indication of how in this strange, ‘new-normal’ world, political campaigning in 2020 is less about going out and meeting people, and more about presenting yourself online.

The 2020 US presidential election is mere weeks away, and while the incumbent President has been crisscrossing the country, holding mass physical events, the Democrats have chosen a more low-key, digital campaign trail.

Presidential candidate Joe Biden has hosted virtual town halls and live streams, which have given him the ability to connect to digitally-engaged audiences. But those often lack the personal touch.

AOC Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Instagram
Instagram: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
AOC’s broadcast was seen 4.6 million times in the eight hours after it ended

What AOC’s stream does is plug that relatability gap. Political campaigns are won on hearts and minds as much as policies. Part of the reason politicians head out on arduous journeys is to meet as many people as possible and convince them to visit polling stations on election day. They often do that less by drilling down into the nitty-gritty of specific policies they want to enact if elected, but instead by convincing voters that they are relatable human beings who can be trusted with power.

A 2014 academic study identified that first impressions matter when it comes to politicians, and so AOC’s stream – where she played Among Us while chatting to those congregated on her stream – works so well. It’s a method she’s used elsewhere online, too, hosting Instagram Lives while preparing meals and talking about her life, slipping in political policy stances to win over voters.

Her Twitch stream is the 2020 pandemic equivalent of “walking the rope line” – the minutes before and after set-piece speeches, where politicians shake voters’ hands and kiss their babies. It allows people a glimpse into her life, and the ability to consider politicians, many of whom have spent their lives trying to ascend to positions of power, as ordinary human beings. It unbuttons the shirt collar and starched suits of Washington DC and instead reminds people that they’re voting for individuals with lives and interests outside of who’s winning and who’s losing in the political horse race.

Which is why it’s so successful. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have previously joined Twitch, but most of the content they posted there was simply live streams of in-person campaign events. What AOC is doing is different: it’s accessible, always on, and intensely personal.

“You can’t hide authenticity when streaming on Twitch,” says Steven Buckley, associate lecturer at the University of the West of England, where he studies politics, language, and digital culture.

“It’s not like a traditional TV interview where a politician can prepare answers in advance via focus group testing,” he adds. “You have to be able to react in the moment and AOC is currently one of the most authentic and natural communicators in US politics.”

It’s also an extension of the idea of politicians as influencers, following in the footsteps of Indonesian president Joko Widodo, who has 2.35 million subscribers on YouTube, where he posts behind-the-scenes videos of his political campaign events.

We know that young people are increasingly important in the political calculations made by campaigns and that digital outreach is increasingly vital in an ever-more important election. Up until now, social media’s impact on elections has proven relatively limited, despite pretty much every major election in the 21st century being called the “first true social media campaign”.

But this is a major election being held under the shadow of the coronavirus, and one of the first where one of the campaigns vowed to limit their physical campaigning. That Twitch stream could inject the personality and the humanity that helps sway undecided voters to back one side over the other – and if nothing else, it’s a reminder that politicians, despite what we all say, are human too.