As the coronavirus pandemic has led to more people spending time at home and conducting school and business online, an increasing focus has been placed on certain technologies and their ability to facilitate hate and harassment. Reports of “Zoombombing,” a reference to the popular video conferencing platform Zoom in which virtual meetings are disrupted by graphic or threatening messages or actions, often including those that contain hate speech or pornographic content, have quickly garnered attention across the country. Inside Higher Ed recently reported incidents targeting virtual classrooms at Arizona State University and the University of Southern California, as well as a children’s storytelling session in New Jersey. According to NBC News, during a virtual Torah lesson on March 22, multiple people interrupted the session by sharing antisemitic images and language. In Thousand Oaks, California, an online school board meeting was cut short after someone shared pornographic images, as well as a Nazi flag and swastika.
While some of these reported Zoombombing incidents can be attributed to internet trolls without particularly malicious intentions, there is concern that extremists could exploit the increasing reliance on video conferencing technology to target certain groups or advance their hateful messages. Across various social media platforms, extremists have already seized on the coronavirus pandemic as a vehicle to spread their hate and conspiracies.