Enlarge / House of Representatives member Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).

The practice of swatting—meaning, reporting fake threats at someone else’s location with the hopes of inciting a major response like a SWAT team visit—has expanded in recent years thanks to factors such as the rise of phone-masking services and Internet communities egging the act on. But the federal government’s lack of specific anti-swatting rules hasn’t helped, which is why Representative Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) proposed the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act on Wednesday.
“While federal law prohibits using the telecommunications system to falsely report a bomb threat hoax or a terrorist attack, falsely reporting other emergency situations is not currently prohibited,” Clark wrote in her announcement of the bill. As such, her bill uses broad-yet-specific language to punish anyone who “uses a telecommunications system, the mails, or any other facility of interstate or foreign commerce to knowingly transmit false or misleading information indicating that conduct has taken, is taking, or will take place that may reasonably be believed to constitute a violation of any State or Federal criminal law, or endanger public health or safety.”
According to this bill, the amount of federal jail time for an offense varies based on whether a government agency is mobilized due to the false report and whether someone is injured or killed as a result. Offenders will also be forced to “reimburse any party for expenses for an emergency response.”
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