‘Zoombombing’: The Next Forum for Anti-Semites?
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced much of the globe to stay at home to stay at home and connected through applications such as Zoom, the shift online has opened the door for digital meetings to be “Zoombombed” by anti-Semites and white nationalists.
In March, a webinar hosted by the Massachusetts Jewish student group, NCSY, was interrupted by a white supremacist according to the Jerusalem Post. As the webinar concluded Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer, a man with a history of exposing anti-Semitic and other racists views, appeared in the video conference and pulled down his shirt collar to reveal a swastika tattoo on his chest.
In another instance in early April, a Torah lesson by Rabbi Asher Weiss in Brooklyn was interrupted by a “Zoombomber” who appeared and shouted ‘Hitler did nothing wrong.’ Shortly afterwards another person on the Zoom meeting changed their background to a picture of a child holding the book ‘Mein Kampf’ before others started screaming ‘Heil Hitler’ repeatedly.
And in yet another recent instance in California, a school board meeting on Zoom was repeatedly bombed with a Nazi flag, swastikas, and pornography.
The emergence of “Zoombombing” incidents has raised concerns that anti-Semites and racists are catalyzing on new and widespread use of video conferencing to target Jewish groups with anti-Semitic messaging. Questions have also arose over whether or not digital platforms such as Zoom and Google are doing enough to provide a safe forum for minority groups who congregate there.
Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently published a guide for Jews and other minority groups to prevent “Zoombombing.” Some tips included: disabling non-hosts from sharing their screens, requiring per-meeting IDs, enabling “waiting rooms”, and assigning co-hosts (so if a hacker appears the co-host can immediately mute that person).
Zoom has been alarmed and responsive to the recent surge in anti-Semitic “Zoombombing” recently issuing the following statement:
“We are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack and we strongly condemn such behavior,” a Zoom spokesperson said. “We have been actively educating our users on how they can protect their meetings and help prevent incidents of harassment.”
In the meantime, victims of “Zoombombing” have been encouraged to report the incidents to law enforcement bodies, the FBI, digital platforms such as Zoom and Google, and relevant Jewish organizations.