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By Alexandra Kilpatrick
May 4, 2016
Credit : Flickr user Massachusetts National Guard.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) has battled swatting and other forms of harassment, especially against women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.

Her latest effort? The Interstate Swatting Hoax Act of 2015, an initiative she co-sponsored along with Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Penn.), that fights swatting, a form of harassment in which someone falsely lures police and SWAT teams to someone else’s home. Clark was a victim of swatting herself. A caller told the police that there were multiple gun shot victims and an active shooter at Clark’s home, when in fact, Clark’s sleeping children and husband were the only ones present at her home.

Clark’s initiative seeks to end such harassment by using existing federal laws against using phone calls and other telecommunications to falsely report terrorist attacks or bomb threats. The act argues that luring police to other fake emergency situations should also be illegal.

“Perpetrators of these hoaxes purposefully use our emergency responders to harm their victims,” Clark commented. “These false reports are dangerous and costly and have resulted in serious injury to victims and law enforcement. It is time to update our laws to appropriately address this crime.”

“Our law enforcement personnel are already struggling to protect our communities with limited resources,” Meehan said. “The wave of ‘swatting’ incidents are costing our police departments’ time and tax dollars. ‘Swatting’ cases divert attention from serious situations that require the attention of highly trained personnel and puts innocent civilians at risk. This legislation updates federal statute and makes it clear that ‘swatting’ is no joke.”

According to the FBI, there are an estimated 400 swatting attacks in the United States each year, some of which have cost local law enforcement agencies as much as $100,000. Swatting attacks have also led to serious injury for law enforcement officers and victims, as well as heart attacks.

Online harassment disproportionately affects women and girls. A recent high-profile example is GamerGate, an online campaign targeting women, threatening them with murder, rape, violence, and the disclosure of their personal information. Clark has asked the FBI to place priority on fighting GamerGate.

Clark also introduced a bill in 2015 asking for each U.S. Attorney’s office to assign one or more assistant U.S. attorneys to investigate cybercrimes and prosecute its perpetrators.

According to Statista, about 60 percent of cyber stalking victims are female and about 27 percent of United States Millennials know someone that has been cyber bullied through text messages.

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