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Legal evaluation of "swatting" in esports/streamers

This post is also available in: Deutsch

What is swatting?

Swatting has now become a bad habit in the US, affecting famous streamers in particular. But how is the matter to be assessed legally in Germany?

Swatting is a made-up word for a fake emergency to disrupt or even harm mostly famous streamers live streaming via a police operation.

In August of this year, for example, an armed police task force in Florida stormed the home of “Fortnite” world champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. The calls there claimed the player had just shot his father with a Kalashnikov and also locked his mother in the garage.

It was just hit by Cody “Clix” Conrad, who was the victim of swatting while playing the Fortnite Champion Series with his team and streamed it live on Twitch.

However, the phenomenon is by no means limited to the USA. In Germany, it happend to the YouTuber Drachenlord.

The legal classification

Legally, such acts are subject to criminal liability under Section 145 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) for “abuse of emergency calls and impairment of accident prevention and emergency aid means”, but also a threat within the meaning of Section 241 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) or Section 126 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) for “disruption of the public peace by the threat of criminal offences”. Finally, criminal liability for “false suspicion” under Section 162 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) is to be considered. And these are the criminal norms that are in question if they do not happen through the use. If there were to be physical injuries or deaths (as happened in the USA in 2017) as a result of the police operation and as a side consequence, then there would still be significantly serious criminal norms.

What are the consequences?

Civil claims for injunction are also conceivable. In the case of commercial streamers or influencers, claims for damages of non-irrelevant amounts would also have to be considered. This applies not only to damage caused, but also to circumstances when tournaments are lost due to the stakes, for example, and therefore sponsors may jump off. The same applies when a competing streamer makes such a call, perhaps even intended as a joke. If any recordings of the operation etc. are published here on another channel, violations of the respective personal rights must be considered. See also this article on prank videos on YouTube.

After all, the cost of the wrong use, including things like destroyed doors etc., would of course have to be paid by the caller. So here, because of a call, whole existences can be destroyed.

In principle, therefore, it must be stated that swatting is much more than just a ‘stupid prank’ and can lead to sensitive prison sentences and civil law to a sensitive claim for damages if the perpetrator is found to be perpetrators. I do not want to start from the fact that the misuse of emergency calls costs money and may lead to bottlenecks in real dangerous situations.

Report victims of swatting!

Anyone who has been a victim of pranks or even swatting can contact me. We then clarify together what is the best way to tackle the polluter.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.


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