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April 08, 2020
By now the term “zoombombing,” describing the phenomenon of virtual meetings being disrupted by graphic or hateful messages, has become increasingly familiar. With “safer-at-home” and physical distancing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, many business and community meetings must rely on video-conferencing tools like Zoom to engage in organizing, educational activities, and worship. Disturbingly, some of these meetings are being disrupted by individuals spewing hate, antisemitism, pornography, and other threatening messages.
Recently, ADL has tracked many instances of zoombombing and shared recommendations to prevent them from occurring. Still, even with the best security settings in place, perpetrators may nevertheless continue to be successful in zoombombing, and while not every instance will rise to the level of unlawful activity, some might. If you or your organization becomes the target of zoombombing, there are certain steps you can take--both in advance and in the moment--to prepare for and document the incident. Documenting the incident will assist law enforcement and civil society groups like ADL respond to zoombombing incidents and, where appropriate, hold perpetrators of such behavior accountable.
1. Have a Plan
Your organization should discuss the right steps to take should a zoombombing incident take place. Are security settings as tight as possible? Should more than one host be designated for a meeting? Who should handle gathering or preserving meeting information if a zoombombing incident occurs? Who should be in charge of communicating to participants during the incident and afterwards? Should colleagues develop a code word or an in-the-moment protocol?
Each individual or organization has different resources and needs, but anyone engaging in semi-public videoconferencing should create a policy or procedure around response protocols in the event of a zoombombing incident.
2. Preserve Information
In order to assist law enforcement and civil society organizations like ADL in tracking and responding to zoombombing incidents, it is important to preserve as much information as possible. If a zoombomb occurs, consider the following:
- Hit Record.
- If your meeting is not already being recorded, hit the record button to capture the behavior.
- Save the Chat.
- Before closing a meeting that has been zoombombed, the host should save and download the chat--especially because many zoombombers both share problematic information on their screen and in chat.
- Take Screen Shots.
- Take as many screen shots as possible, especially of the meeting participants. You can do this by clicking the “Manage Participants” button. If you are unable to take screenshots with your computer, use an alternative device such as a phone.
- Generate Reports.
- If your zoom meeting has registration or polling enabled, generate a report after the meeting.
3. Notify Law Enforcement and ADL
Law Enforcement across the country and civil society groups like ADL are working to decrease zoombombing. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, hatred or bigotry and report to ADL, we will do our best to investigate your situation and respond to you quickly. Please be advised that ADL cannot act as a substitute for law enforcement, but we may be able to assist in other ways.
If zoombombing occurs, be sure to report the instance to: