Zoom gathering for African American students at UofSC interrupted by racist images, language

Zoom gathering for African American students at UofSC interrupted by racist images, language
AAAS hosted a video chat to bring students together to celebrate as they normally would with a spring cookout, but about an hour into the call, students say people joined the call showing racist images and spouting racist slurs. (Source: @aidannbaker)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With the campus shut down and all student activities on hold, the University of South Carolina is turning to technology to connect with students.

But one recent online social gathering meant for African American students was seemingly hacked by people spewing racial slurs and using blackface and neo-Nazi symbols.

The Association of African American Students (AAAS) was hosting its annual spring cookout using the virtual meeting platform Zoom when the incident happened Friday night, students say.

Saturday morning, UofSC President Bob Caslen tweeted about the incident. He called what happened “absolutely unacceptable and disgusting.”

“I can’t apologize enough to the UofSC students who witnessed such ignorance while gathering to fellowship with one another during this unprecedented time,” Caslen said on Twitter.

He said university officials are investigating.

Caslen later released a full statement saying:

Representatives of AAAS also tweeted about what happened, saying “during the cookout, unknown persons entered (the Zoom chat) and proceeded to post a plethora of images, videos and messages containing racist slurs and derogatory terms.”

One student in the chat took a video of what happened and shared it on Twitter.

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: The following tweet contains offensive language and images.

UofSC Student Government was also quick to respond, posting a letter to social media Friday night condemning what happened and saying “those responsible for this hateful act will be held accountable.”

Zoom replied to the UofSC student who posted the video of what happened, asking for more details and saying they would “escalate to our trust and safety team.”

WIS reached out to Zoom and got the following response:

“We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents. Zoom strongly condemns such behavior and recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings. We have enabled meeting passwords and virtual waiting rooms by default for our Free Basic and Single Pro users. For all users, we have made the Zoom Meeting ID less visible to help prevent unintended sharing, and we have added a new Security icon to the Zoom meeting controls for all hosts to help them quickly access in-meeting security features, including the ability to remove participants and lock meetings, among other actions. Through our offering of training, tutorials and webinars, including our CEO Eric Yuan’s weekly privacy and security webinar, Zoom is continuing to engage with all of our users on how they can best use Zoom and protect their meetings​. ​We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action​ or directly to law enforcement authorities."

As mentioned in that statement, the online meeting platform has been marred by several incidents of people crashing meetings with obscene images and language. They have offered some tips to keep meetings more secure.

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