Many of us are grappling with the anxiety from economic shutdowns, job losses and shortages in basic commodities as the pandemic rages on.
In spite of the social distancing mandate, we persist.
Thanks to the convenience of apps like Zoom, people are afforded some semblance of a connection during the government-mandated lockdown.
The popular remote conferencing software allows friends to socialize, schools to conduct online classes and support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous to continue with their gatherings.
Unfortunately, White supremacists and other hate groups have also adopted Zoom to infiltrate these communities to spread their vile messages.
The cruel phenomenon in which trolls fish for links to crash videoconferences is called "Zoom Bombing."
Now the FBI has gotten involved to issue warnings about the heinous tactic.
@TaylorLorenz I shared an article about this gross "Zoombombing" as it related to higher education, but it seems th… https://t.co/t0nLMMBK3p— Orson Ozias Shepherd (@Orson Ozias Shepherd) 1585686427.0
Members heard a man yelling misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments halfway through the conference call, including this triggering reference to drinking:
"Alcohol is soooo good."
@TaylorLorenz There is no bottom. That is as despicable as it gets.— Serious Gravity (@Serious Gravity) 1585686580.0
Organizers acted quickly by muting the intrusive voice.
Because the meeting's participants used their real names in the chat, around half of them left to avoid risk of compromising their identities by a possible screenshot.
@TaylorLorenz No words. Evil.— Pamela at home (@Pamela at home) 1585686383.0
I recently spoke with a New York member who oversees a number of group meetings to ensure their Zoom videoconferences and protocols are running efficiently.
He shared examples of disturbing incidences that happened to other members.
"People will cause a disturbance by sharing porn on their screen or shouting obscenities."
"Something particularly insidious is that they will send private text messages to individuals in the group so it's not obvious to others in the group that anything is wrong."
In the wake of these disturbances, he told me that recent conversations among service teams for those meetings have been:
"centered on how to protect the experience of our group members to ensure they have a safe place to share their thoughts and find community."
"It's very sad in a way because these meetings are supposed to be a communal place where all are equal, everyone is welcome, and everyone has a voice."
@TaylorLorenz YES. This happened in my meeting last night. It was awful. Supposed to be a safe/sacred space... 😓— Brittany Zenner (@Brittany Zenner) 1585689700.0
@TaylorLorenz @jaketapper There should be a special place in hell for people that do that. What’s happening right… https://t.co/Moa5aqCKjC— Debbie Russell #DemCast (@Debbie Russell #DemCast) 1585742751.0
"But now, out of necessity, we are forced to impose restrictions that work against those principles."
"A lot of meetings are now password protected and require guests to have Zoom accounts, participants can only be unmuted by the host, and the group chat has been disabled."
The forced policy changes were meant for protection, but it also produced unintended consequences.
"Where there was freedom and equality there is now an element of restriction and control."
"These measures are taken to protect the group as a whole, but to the individual group member it can reinforce isolation and apartness, especially during this time of social distancing."
The AA interference is one of many examples of Zoom Bombing plaguing digital communities.
On March 24, a White supremacist interrupted an antisemitism webinar hosted by a Jewish student by pulling down his shirt collar to reveal a swastika tattoo.
The hacker was identified as Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer—a self-named "White nationalist hacktivist."
Unfortunately, Anti-Semitism (Jew Hatred) never sleeps. I was moderating this webinar last Tuesday. Please stay tun… https://t.co/j5VxNnFpjS— Bryan E. Leib (@Bryan E. Leib) 1585585995.0
@TaylorLorenz had this happen this week to our mental health group. i am still shaken up. need an alternative to zoom really bad— Jesse Zook Mann 🧘🏻♂️ (@Jesse Zook Mann 🧘🏻♂️) 1585686138.0
@TaylorLorenz I can confirm this happened in an illustration webinar this past Friday. They were streaming “adult t… https://t.co/9bgC8UJFOq— ❄️TitaniumArtFlake❄️ (@❄️TitaniumArtFlake❄️) 1585686436.0
@TaylorLorenz @StellaKramer Hmm, read somewheres trolls were uploading porn vids during a recent LA city hall meeti… https://t.co/KxJjqXOQkm— keith johnson (@keith johnson) 1585686541.0
@DrPhilGoff @zoom_us There are horror stories. Sexually explicit stuff being shared during a meeting for assault su… https://t.co/x59PO7UJWF— April (@April) 1585715013.0
A Zoom spokesperson expressed they were:
"deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this kind of attack."
@TaylorLorenz Sooner or later, Zoom is going to get around to changing the default account settings. In the meanti… https://t.co/8ECIL2xNko— CLA (@CLA) 1585691115.0
The Zoom representative encouraged users to file complaints of similar harassment directly with Zoom, and encouraged group facilitators to check their security settings for safer interaction.
"For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to review their settings and confirm that only the host can share their screen."
"For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining."
Zoom suggests the following guidelines.
"Do not make meetings or classrooms public."
"Only share links with people you trust."
"Manage screensharing options (change screensharing to 'Host Only')"
"Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications."
The violation of these safe spaces is another infuriating manifestation of hate during the pandemic lockdown. It needs to stop.