This is part of the endless story of zoom, a story which is true as it happened to me and about 100+ other people.
The open rights group run an event every Friday afternoon related data privacy and ethics. Its been hosted on zoom for the last few weeks and the guests have been good. When I heard Lilian Edwards and Rachel Coldicutt were going to talk about a possible way forward for the debate around covid-19 contact tracing. I was onboard to watch again.
It centers around this proposed legal document which Lilian spearheaded with Rachel and others.
The Coronavirus (Safeguards) Bill 2020: Proposed protections for digital interventions and in relation to immunity certificates
I highly recommend you have a read…especially since some promises seem to be broken.
To support this initiative we've drafted a model statute https://t.co/o7UVx5LnXa for discussion about basic safeguards re data collection, repurposing, and discrimination. It applies scrutiny drawn from human rights based on transparency, legitimacy and proportionality. 2/n pic.twitter.com/PsHvCLWkxd
— Lilian Edwards (@lilianedwards) April 13, 2020
Back to the incident on the zoom call…
I joined a bit late but setup my chromebook casting to my TV via the chromecast. Settled in to watch while working on my Dell XPS laptop. As Lilian finished her presentation, someone drew a cock and balls on top of her final slide. Lilian laughed it off while the hosts the open rights group went about blocking, booting and changing the permissions of the zoom call.
As things moved forward, someone was attempting to draw a swastika on the video. Someone was using the zoom overlay feature or something but it was removed before it was fully drawn. It was about then when we moved to Rachel and before she could really get going someone hijacked the video and showed child abuse/porn. It was shocking and I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the chat room and people were equally upset. It lasted about 10-15 secs but it was just vile/horrible.
Someone pleaded that the hosts take control, and they replied they are ending the whole thing now. Then it was all gone. The lasting effect was felt and although I felt truly shaken by what I had seen, I also knew I had to reach out to others.
Since then, I called my partner for support, line manager to report what happened and check he wasn’t on the call too. I also wanted to check other BBC staff wasn’t on the call I knew. I had previously shared the link around our internal slack and with others interested in contact tracing. I’m lucky the BBC has a employee assistance programme, where I was able to talk to a trained professional who suggested I might feel some comfort in blogging about it (hence this blog)
We reported to the authorities as soon as we could (earlier this evening) and will support with any investigation.
— Open Rights Group (@OpenRightsGroup) April 17, 2020
I noticed while blogging, theres a twitter thread about the whole thing now. No ones blaming the openrightsgroup but this guide written by Michael J. Oghia. But there is a good list of all the things to lock down and change on zoom for anyone before it happens again. Its likely the people behind this illegal act were going zoom to zoom.
I can't believe it. I'm in a political discussion group right now on @zoom_us that was just bombed by child porn. Like, WTF is wrong with people?? I feel so traumatized!
Digital rights folks: are there any best practices to deal with this?
— Michael J. Oghia (@MikeOghia) April 16, 2020
I recently noticed that a few organisations are using youtube for broadcasts and discussions, with another system for feedback and questions. It certainly cuts down on abuse compared to zoom and you can easily share the public link out. The idea of switching to jitsu or skype may not necessarily help solve this type of problem. But changing the way its done completely could.
I got a email from the Open Rights Group…
This afternoon an unknown actor severely disrupted our public online discussion about Covid-19 and we were forced to immediately end the call.
We were horrified by what occurred and would like to apologise for having exposed viewers to such horrific imagery. We are deeply sorry that this occurred on ORG’s watch.
If you would like to speak with us directly I am personally available to speak to anyone and everyone that was on the call.
We have reported the incident to the Police and are taking necessary steps to secure our systems. We will be reviewing the way we conduct meetings to ensure this is never possible again.
If you would like to speak to a counselling or advice service, the Police recommend contacting Samaritans. They accept calls from anyone on any emotional issue at this number 116 123.
Open Rights Group