A Calgary mother has been charged after police were alerted to a video broadcast on an online game-streaming service that showed a woman hitting, shoving and biting an infant while playing Fortnite.
A short clip, originally streamed to the gaming service Twitch, was reposted to Twitter earlier this week, prompting calls to Calgary’s police service from as far away as Europe and California.
A woman can be seen yelling at a small child before roughly handling the infant and at one point biting its hand. The video posted to Twitter appears to include several clips that were spliced together; an online timer indicates the woman may have been streaming for more than seven hours.
Staff-Sergeant Peter Siegenthaler of the Calgary Police Service’s child-abuse unit says the department received numerous tips from around the world.
“We ran a couple of quick searches, identified the person, got an address and within probably an hour of seeing the video, we were already at the address,” he said in an interview.
Staff-Sgt. Siegenthaler said a 31-year-old woman was arrested and subsequently charged with assault. The woman, who police aren’t identifying in order to protect the children, has been released and her next court appearance is set for January.
Staff-Sgt. Siegenthaler declined to say where the children were other than to say they were taken to a safe place.
“The children are not with the family currently, and Children’s Services has been involved right from the get go," he said.
Lauren Armstrong, press secretary to Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz, said the department was working with the police and the Calgary & Area Child Advocacy Centre. She urged the public to know the signs of child abuse and report any potential case.
“We all play a critical role in identifying situations where a child’s safety or well-being may be at risk,” she wrote.
Twitch is an online service that allows people to stream themselves playing video games and interact with other players and viewers. The company, which is owned by Amazon, did not respond to a request for comment.
Staff-Sgt. Siegenthaler said his unit has seen other cases in which videos posted to online video-game services have depicted child abuse, though in some cases the force has been alerted to videos that were old or were from other parts of the world.
Nonetheless, he urged anyone who sees such a video to report it – and not spread it.
“If you do come across a video like that, call the police,” he said. “Don’t share that video.”
There have been other videos streamed to Twitch depicting violence or other disturbing content.
In October of this year, a gunman in Germany used Twitch to stream a shooting outside a synagogue that killed two people.
The company has also been forced to remove other videos of shootings that have been reposted to the site, including the attack at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed dozens.
A Calgary woman who was a frequent broadcaster on Twitch was targeted last year by something known as swatting, in which someone calls police to report a fictitious violent incident to prompt a response. The woman had been streaming for more than eight hours when tactical officers with guns drawn descended on her apartment.
In 2017, a celebrity gamer in Virginia died, off camera, during a 24-hour marathon broadcast.
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