Trolls. Haters. Keyboard warriors. Anyone who spends time online—whether visiting social media platforms, lurking on discussion forums, or even reading the comments of just about any site or article—is well-acquainted with these sorts of folks. Rude remarks and cruel comments are perhaps an unavoidable aspect of modern life. But can they cross the line to become a crime? Today we're looking at the world of online video games, specifically those that can be played with people from all over the world.
The Nature of Online Gaming
Some people still think that video game players are a minority—and that they're either teenagers or maladjusted adults living in their parents' basements, subsisting on junk food and energy drinks. The reality couldn't be different, though. First of all, there are some 3.24 billion gamers across the globe. What's more, the hobby transcends gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, and just about every other category.
That's not to say, however, that gamers are all one big happy family. With such a diverse population, this community does see its fair share of animosity. Although many people develop close, enduring friendships and even romantic relationships thanks to their presence on gaming platforms, there's also plenty of opportunity for arguments that go beyond the competition of the games themselves.
A Serious Problem in the Gaming Community
Harassment among video gamers is a serious problem. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League's Center for Technology and Society, a whopping 85% of gamers age 18 and up experienced harassment while engaged in this pastime. Of those, 65% said they'd been the target of “severe” harassment. What's more, 60% of younger players, aged 13-17, reported being harassed or bullied.
False Reports That Lead to Fatalities
In some cases, online harassment doesn't stay online. The ADL's report found that 29% of respondents had been the victims of “doxxing,”—in which the bully unearths and then distributes the victim's personal information, including their real name, phone number, and home address. This leaves the individual vulnerable to in-person harassment and attacks.
Such attacks include “swatting,” a term derived from the “SWAT teams” of law enforcement officers or military personnel. In this egregious act, the abusive gamer makes a false report—often involving homicide, a hostage situation, or a bomb threat—that triggers a tactical cohort of police to descend upon the victim's home. In addition to causing costly expenditures of resources, the ensuing melee can easily lead to injury and, in some cases, even death.
Multiplayer Video Gamers and Crime
A number of jurisdictions in the U.S. and elsewhere have specific statutory provisions that address cybercrimes. In others, acts of harassment, stalking, and bullying that take place online are covered under the laws prohibiting in-person acts of this nature. In either case, once a pattern of online conduct that intends to harass, annoy, or alarm a person has been established, that conduct can qualify as criminal harassment. Again, depending on the jurisdiction, the target of cyberharassment can file for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order.
Doxxing, while not technically a crime in and of itself if the information being released is publicly available, is often crime adjacent. People have been prosecuted for illegally obtaining the documents, for intimidation, harassment, or stalking, or for violating websites' terms of service.
Get Help If You're an Online Gamer With IRL Charges
If you are a gamer who has been accused of a crime such as online harassment or cyberstalking, we can help. At the Lento Law Firm, we understand how easy it can be for someone to misunderstand another person's words or intent and how quickly a situation can unravel after that occurs. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team by clicking here or by calling 888-535-3686, tell us about your case, and let us help you before it's “game over.”
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