Zoombombing

Zoombombing

Mallak Ali, Reporter

In an attempt to continue the Spring semester, schools and universities internationally have resorted to a virtual conferencing service called Zoom. The app is typically used for company conferences or for professional online meetings but is now well known for supplying teachers and students a way to communicate due to the unforeseen shutdown of schools. According to CNBC, the company had already added 2.2 million active users in the first three months of 2020.  As a result of COVID-19, educators are heavily relying on the software to replicate traditional teaching methods, such as lecturing and discussions. 

The software works by first allowing the teacher to make a free account with their school emails. Then, they choose the tab to host the meeting and schedule the class for whatever time and date they wish. Afterward, the teachers can copy the URL link and either post it to Google Classroom or email it to their students, along with the meeting ID and password. The meeting ID and password acts as extra protection against unwanted participants. Nevertheless, students share their IDs and passwords with their friends, ultimately resulting in “Zoombombing”. 

Zoombombing occurs when someone who is not invited to a meeting somehow gains access and proceeds to interrupt the meeting with disturbing comments or harassing other participants. It is a form of trolling that has recently become popular alongside the increasing use of Zoom. To some, Zoombombing is humorous and provides some change to their self-quarantine days, but in many cases, the participants are left perplexed and horrified. 

I, for one, don’t understand the comedic value of Zoombombing. On my first day of figuring out how to operate Zoom with my teachers, a Zoombomber appeared in the class just as it was beginning and sat quietly in an attempt to blend in with the others so the teacher didn’t kick them out of the meeting. About 10 minutes into the class, the Zoombomber starts to shout at the teacher and harass students. They then left and joined back in a few minutes later, proceeding to scream exceedingly inappropriate comments, but didn’t leave until they directly harassed a student. Subsequent to the meeting, the teacher apologized for the behavior of the unknown member and vowed to find a way to increase class security. After the incident, the teacher targeted, Ms.Gutierrez, said, “The fact that we have to use this platform is already stressful for us as educators. I don’t believe using this platform is useless, it’s just going to take a bit more time.” 

However, this doesn’t only occur in class meetings. As AP News reports, a Zoom conference call for worship was disrupted by a Zoombomber. The host of the conference, Reverend Laura Everett states that in the call, they were “met with racist and hateful LGBTQ+ slurs” in a call containing children and elderly who were still learning how to operate Zoom. She continues to say that it was “profoundly distressing”. The Revenant called on the company to solve the issue of security quickly. 

Because of the high volume of Zoombombers, Zoom implemented a waiting room for which the host of a meeting needs to accept the participants before they are allowed to enter; this is in addition to the meeting ID and password.  They hope that with the new security, Zoombombing and distressed users will decrease.