“Very dangerous”, swatting incidents are increasing

A bomb threat requiring the movement of a specialized squad targeted the home of Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s US$370 million (CAN495 million) civil trial, on Thursday morning in New York.

According to CNN, a team spent part of the day at the judge’s home. Security around the latter has also been reinforced.


Judge Arthur Engoron on Thursday during Donald Trump’s fraud trial in New York

Hundreds of “serious and credible” threats have been received by the judge and his legal assistant since the start of Trump’s trial. “Engoron’s legal assistant receives 20 to 30 calls per day on her personal cell phone, and 30 to 50 messages per day on social media platforms and two personal email addresses,” the media outlet said.

This is the most recent incident of swattinga practice of triggering emergency services without good reason in order to harm a person or organization.

“There have been a lot of cases of swatting in the United States during the holidays,” points out Rafael Jacob, associate researcher at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair at UQAM.

You have police coming in and breaking down people’s doors, legislators, because they got a fake emergency call. It’s very dangerous.

Rafael Jacob, from the Raoul-Dandurand Chair

Among those targeted by such incidents in recent weeks are Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Republican Senator Rick Scott, among others.


Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

In 2020, a case of swatting concerning a false hostage-taking had triggered a police operation at the Ubisoft premises in Montreal. Last year, a 22-year-old French citizen was sentenced in France to three years of community service in connection with this event.


Police officers near the Ubisoft offices in November 2020 after a call was received regarding a fake hostage situation

For Christian Leuprecht, professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University in Kingston, this practice is dangerous because it directly attacks the fundamental principles of the social contract.

“A democratic society wants to keep violence out of the political sphere. There, we are witnessing a trajectory where violence increases in politics and is used to defend particular interests. This is very worrying. »

Mr. Leuprecht notes that the trend affects both the legislative and judicial branches, which is particularly problematic.

“We are attacking the people who make the laws and the people who enforce them. It calls into question the rule of law. These are not targets chosen at random. »

Rhetoric of the enemy

Rafael Jacob notes that the level of division between the “two camps” in the United States goes beyond simple antagonism.

“The person who doesn’t think like us is not only an adversary, he becomes an enemy,” he said. If you think the other side is an existential threat to the country, everything becomes legitimate. You might be thinking that a bomb threat isn’t great, but it’s less serious than losing your country. “It’s unfortunately seen as one more tool that can be used by one side to attack the other side,” he says.

He has doubts the political climate will improve, citing Biden’s Trump-Hitler comparisons as an alarming sign of tension since the start of 2024.


Donald Trump and Joe Biden, during a presidential debate in September 2020

Mr. Jacob compares the current rhetoric to that of previous elections, such as the Obama-Romney duel in 2012, noting that the enemy rhetoric was not there. “We do not publicly question the patriotism of the adversary. »

When we start in January and the tension is at 15 on a scale of 10, what will it be like in November?

Rafael Jacob, from the Raoul-Dandurand Chair

Christian Leuprecht points out that the presidential election on November 5 will have fundamental consequences for the West’s adversaries, such as Iran, China and Russia.

“We will witness a social polarization that we have never seen before,” he said. I worry about the use of artificial intelligence to manipulate opinions, to spread disinformation. China uses AI on a massive scale in Taiwan, it is its experimental laboratory. I fear the use of AI to try to influence the American elections, and also the Canadian elections which will come no later than 2025. I fear that we do not have plans to deal with it. »

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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