Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!
We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).
Game companies like Twitch have publicly said that swatting is dangerous, but that there is little else they can do to prevent the pranks. Tracking the culprits behind the pranks is difficult. While bomb scares and other hoaxes have been around for decades, making threats anonymously has never been so easy. Swatters use text messages and online phone services like Skype to relay their threats, employing techniques to make themselves hard to trace. They obtain personal addresses for their victims through property records and other public databases, or by tricking businesses or customer service representatives at a victim's Internet provider into revealing the information. Brandon Willson, a gamer known online as "Famed God," made up a murder to get police to go to an unsuspecting west suburban resident's home last year and ended up behind bars in Nevada awaiting extradition. As part of the investigation, police traveled to Las Vegas to help local police execute a search warrant at Willson's home. Computers seized there contained evidence of the swatting incident, as well as similar incidents across the country, prosecutors claim. Willson faces up to five years in prison if he is convicted on charges of computer tampering and one count each of intimidation, computer fraud, identity theft and disorderly conduct. His mother, Brenda Willson, says her son is innocent and does not smoke, drink or have tattoos. "He would never swat," she says.
Should such a system be used in the United States? After all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money. For example Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates. But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. "Ferguson's law enforcement practices are shaped by the City's focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs," it concluded. The first day-fine ever in the U.S. was given in 1988, and about 70 percent of Staten Island's fines in the following year were day-fines. A similar program was started in Milwaukee, and a few other cities implemented the day-fine idea and according to Judith Greene, who founded Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research organization, all of these initiatives were effective in making the justice system fairer for poor people. "When considering a proportion of their income,people are at least constantly risk-averse. This means that the worst that would happen is that the deterrent effect of fines would be the same across wealth or income levels," says Casey Mulligan. "We should start small—say, only speeding tickets—and see what happens."
The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."
In order to obtain an injunction in these cases, the government would need to sue the defendants in civil court and show that its suit is likely to succeed on its merits. "The Administration's proposed amendment would add activities like the operation of a botnet to the list of offenses eligible for injunctive relief. Specifically, the amendment would permit the department to seek an injunction to prevent ongoing hacking violations in cases where 100 or more victim computers have been hacked. This numerical threshold focuses the injunctive authority on enjoining the creation, maintenance, operation, or use of a botnet, as well as other widespread attacks on computers using malicious software (such as "ransomware" )," assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell wrote.
But Professor Geoffrey Alpert. a policing expert who has studied the use of police helicopters in Miami and Baltimore, says the choppers can deter crime in the short-term but criminals will likely return when they're not around (PDF). "You are deterring the criminals but you aren't getting rid of them and their intent. Those criminals could strike in a different time and place," says Alpert. "I mean that's the whole thing about random patrol. You see a police car and it's the same thing. You hide, he goes around the block and you go back to your breaking and entering."