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Places of worship Zoombombed

Places of worship Zoombombed

Schools, universities, houses of worship and others are experiencing disruptions to their Zoom meetings — Zoombombing. Trolls have crashed into meetings with racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages. Others exposed themselves or posted pornography.

Victims include places of worship. RNS reports:

On Sunday, Alex Merritt was signed in to the Zoom video conferencing app, discussing a biblical passage with members of his Sunday school young adults group at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.

Then the trolls attacked. Some began sharing their screens and drawing obscene images over the text the group had been discussing. “You are being hacked! You are being hacked!” one shouted. Another turned on his video and began revealing his genitals.

Merritt’s church group, which had to shut down its meeting and set up a new one, originally put a public Zoom link on its website. Now, the group will only send the link to members of its private Facebook groups, all of whom have been approved.

A Shabbat service held via Zoom by a Bay Area synagogue was crashed by Nazis. A Unitarian Universalist church in Massachusetts saw a livestreamed service on YouTube deluged with dislikes. A livestreamed church service in Los Angeles was hacked and replaced with porn. A Zoom webinar last week with the People’s Forum, an activist-oriented cultural space directed by theologian Claudia de la Cruz, was disrupted by a troll posting the n-word in the chat window repeatedly until administrators blocked him.

Virginia Commonwealth University has posted security advice — settings and best practices — for Zoom meetings.

Ceri Weber’s PhD defense was Zoombombed. Her thread includes the experience and lessons learned. Recommended:

The Rev. Laura Everett was Zoombombed on Sunday. Among the replies to her tweet are others who were Zoombombed:


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B. D. Howes

There are provocateurs around every corner, even more often on the Internet, so these attacks will happen. I think the benefit of open participation outweighs the risk of disruptions as disruptions can be dealt with in seconds or less.

A good strategy is to have at least two people (host and co-host(s)) running all open meetings. As you can have an unlimited number of co-hosts, monitoring a large number of participants while the leader(s) focus on running the meeting is possible.

The host and co-hosts can (among other things) mute, cut off the video, prevent screen sharing, and expel an unruly participant. They can also lock a meeting at any time if under attack.

We are not running a Country Club! I’d rather face the risk that I might need to deal with hooligans or close an open meeting than lock out people from the start.

More info on these functions and how to enable them can be found at

Eric Bonetti

Agree. The reality is that live-streaming and related challenges are the new norm for the foreseeable future, particularly given the rapidly aging demographics of TEC and thus the organization’s vulnerability to the pandemic. Thus, locking up a Zoom meeting for only the invited becomes the equivalent of locking your church building on Sundays and requiring an invitation to worship. It might work for a while, but I guarantee you that it will not work over time.

As someone who grew up in TEC and was very active for a number of years but now have left the church, I am acutely aware that many, myself included, are watching closely to see how the church responds to the pandemic. As I said in previous posts, weasel-wording things, suggesting people attend church when authorities urge otherwise, falling into secrecy/tribalism, treating critics as undesirables, urging “precautions” when these were not effective in preventing a crisis at Christ Church Georgetown, and otherwise reverting to bad habits is not going to help.

At the risk of sounding grouchy (which I often am these days, sorry), it should also be pointed out that TEC bishops try to have things both ways. The church is hierarchical when it comes to the Dennis Canon, but when it comes to the safety of members or clergy supervision, suddenly bishops wring their hands and lament that they can’t do more than offer “guidance.” The church cannot have it both ways, and kudos to +Budde and others who have not been afraid to grab the bull by the horns. We are talking about people’s lives and the very survival of the church,

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