David Hogg, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has become the target of online conspiracies and threats ever since he emerged as an outspoken advocate for gun control. On Tuesday morning, someone targeted the family home of the school massacre survivor with one of the cruelest forms of harassment: “swatting.”
Swatting involves placing a fake emergency call to a local law enforcement agency in the hope of drawing armed officers to a victim’s home. Gaming live-streamers were early targets, as online bad actors relished in the possibility of watching someone confronted on camera by a bunch of men in SWAT gear, holding guns. It has expanded to become a cruel way to target online enemies and victims of harassment, or anyone experiencing viral fame. For instance, one of the teenagers behind the extremely wholesome “Damn, Daniel” meme was swatted in 2016.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous call Tuesday claiming that there was a hostage situation in the home, according to the local ABC affiliate. When authorities showed up, they determined it was a prank. A spokesman from the sheriff’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Washington Post seeking more information.
Hogg is currently in D.C. with his mother to accept the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, ABC reported. Hogg recently graduated from high school and has said he will take a year off before attending college to continue his advocacy “not just around gun control, but around youth voter turnout.”
“Swatting” is often called a prank. But it’s much more dangerous than that word connotes. Late last year, a dispute over a video game allegedly led to a swatting call that left one Wichita man dead, when police arrived at the home falsely expecting to confront an armed man who was holding his family hostage.
Hogg, along with a group of other Parkland survivors, responded to the Feb. 14 massacre at their school by becoming outspoken, viral advocates for increased gun control, arguing that the measures were needed to prevent another shooting like the one that killed their classmates. That advocacy made Hogg, Emma González and other Parkland students the targets of online harassment and conspiracy theories.
The attacks on Hogg and González infiltrated more mainstream criticism of the teens’ policy advocacy in the weeks after the massacre. In April, conservative TV personality Jamie Allman resigned from the Sinclair Broadcast Group after tweeting that he was “getting ready” to sexually assault Hogg with a “hot poker.” Laura Ingraham mocked Hogg in late March for not getting accepted into his top college choice, prompting calls for an advertising boycott. Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing personality who was recently pardoned by Trump, started mocking the Parkland teens on Twitter less than a week after the shooting.