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Net neutrality bomb threat suspect has a history of hoax calls

A federal grand jury has indicted Tyler Barriss on two counts of making hoax bomb threats, including one that famously delayed the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to repeal net neutrality in December, Engadget reports. He called a similar bomb threat into the FBI headquarters later that same month. Barriss was already in police custody, however, charged with manslaughter for orchestrating a “swatting” that resulted in the death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch in Wichita, Kansas, also last December.

The December 14 bomb threat to the FCC only temporarily delayed Chairman Ajit Pai’s effort to repeal Barack Obama-era regulations for ensuring a fair and open internet. The U.S. Senate recently voted by a narrow margin to overturn the FCC’s ruling, but the bill faces an uphill battle through the House of Representatives and a particularly business-friendly White House in order to keep net neutrality alive.

“Swatting” is the practice of calling in extreme hoax threats (hostage situations and the like) on unsuspecting victims, severe enough that the police will send in a SWAT team. In this case, it’s particularly popular among gamers and has gained traction in recent years as streamers make juicy targets for such a cruel, dangerous and non-consensual show. According to court documents, Casey Viner, 18, and Shane Gaskill, 19, got into an argument as teammates while playing Call of Duty: WWII, leading Viner to ask Barriss to swat Gaskill. Gaskill dared Barriss to do so but gave him the address of a home his parents owned and rented to Finch and family.  While only Barriss is being charged with manslaughter for directly instigating the swatting, both teens are being charged with some combination of conspiracy, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice for their roles in the incident, as well as its cover-up by deleting direct messages after processing the severity of what went down.

Barriss’ association with the bomb threats should come as no surprise to anyone that knows him, as he has a history of similar incidents. In 2015, Barriss was arrested and charged for calling in a bomb threat to CNN affiliate KABC in Los Angeles, for which he served a two-year sentence.

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Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
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