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Antisemitism, Racism, Porn, Crashing AA Meetings: Zoom Responds To ‘Zoombombing’

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • As Americans flock to Zoom during social distancing, reports have emerged showing that trolls have been hijacking or “Zoombombing” a variety of Zoom meetings, including public school classes, higher education, and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • Zoom condemned any such harassment, saying it is “deeply upset” in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “We are listening to our community of users to help us evolve our approach and help our users guard against these attacks,” Zoom stated.

The remote conferencing service Zoom said it is “deeply upset” Thursday over reports of harassment on the platform, including antisemitism, racism and pornography.

Zoom, a platform that has gained popularity during coronavirus social distancing requirements, condemned any such harassment on its platform in a Thursday company statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. Zoom also referred the DCNF to March guidance on how to keep uninvited guests out of a Zoom call and best practices for securing Zoom classrooms.

The organization noted that beginning April 5, Zoom is enabling passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for Free Basic and Single Pro users and adding a “Security” item beginning April 8 to help hosts “quickly access in-meeting security features and Zoom meeting IDs are no longer displayed on the title toolbar.”

“We have been deeply upset by increasing reports of harassment on our platform and strongly condemn such behavior,” the statement said. “We are listening to our community of users to help us evolve our approach and help our users guard against these attacks.”

“We are also continuing to proactively educate users on how they can protect their meetings from unwanted intruders, including through our offering of trainings, tutorials, and webinars to help users understand their own account features and how to best use the platform,” Zoom added.

Zoom’s response came as reports emerged showing that trolls have been hijacking or “Zoombombing” a variety of Zoom meetings, including public school classes, higher education and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. (RELATED: Zoom Recruits Former Facebook Security Chief As Critics Bash The Tech Firm For Privacy Lapses)

An analysis conducted by The New York Times and published April 7 found that thousands of people were engaged in organizing Zoom harassment campaigns using Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and 4Chan.

These organizers shared Zoom meeting passwords and planned on disrupting both public and private meetings, TheNYT reported.

In one March 29 incident detailed by TheNYT, a call attended by Muslim leaders from the Concordia Forum was interrupted by racial slurs and the casting of a pornographic video.

“We were all caught off guard,” resident senior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London Zahed Amanullah told TheNYT. “We had no clue where it was coming from.”

Harassers on the platform have also targeted an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting by projecting a GIF of a person drinking onto the background of one meeting, TheNYT reported. Other harassers used Zoom’s annotation feature in a virtual meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Paris to write racist messages.

The Jewish News reported that in a March 30 incident involving the Jewish National Fund, teachers, parents and teenagers who were engaged in a Zoom call learning about Jewish history were confronted by harassers who repeatedly screamed the N-word, displayed pornographic and violent images, and yelled other obscenities. Trolls hijacked another Jewish National Fund call, yelling, “Kill the Jews.”

“There’s no rationalizing with these people, so we ended the call. We didn’t know how much worse it would get,” Jennifer Sosnow, Israel programs admission director for Jewish National Fund, told the Jewish News regarding the first incident of harassment. (RELATED: REPORT: Google Bans Zoom From Company Computers)

A group of 50 Utah elementary school children were “Zoom-bombed” with pornography and profanities during a call with the school’s principal April 1. The principal quickly ended the Zoom call and said that the children were only able to see the content for a few seconds.

In another incident, trolls hacked a Zoom meeting of Utah Republican Party leaders and showed pornography accompanied by racial slurs to those on the call.

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