Zoombomber disrupts webinar on Zoombombing


A “Racist Zoombombing” leacture suffered its own Zoombombing attack Nov. 4 at Detroit Mercy.

The culprit managed to infiltrate the webinar’s chat feature momentarily before the discussion started.

After a short delay, history professor Roy Finkenbine introduced the two speakers, Hanah Stiverson and Kyle Lindsey.

Along with Dr. Lisa Nakamura, they are authors of the book “Racist Zoombombing” (and PhD candidates in the American Cultures program at University of Michigan).

The speakers took turns during the 40-minute discussion covering four chapters of their book.

Zoombombing is “the use of videoconferencing software by infiltrators to attack unsuspecting users with racist, sexist and other toxic content,” said Stiverson, quoting from the book.

The pandemic functioned as a catalyst for Zoombombing, she noted, as more people needed to rely on video conferencing tools for work and school.

Lindsey said Zoombombing was inevitable since other platforms, such as online gaming, had suffered similar intrusions.

Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan has cited the company’s rapid growth and user error as reasons for the rise of Zoombombing, which is an all-encompassing term.

Classrooms, government meetings and social gatherings have all fallen prey to disruptions that sometimes have nothing to do with race.

The authors titled their book to distinguish racist intrusions from other forms of Zoombombing.

They felt racist Zoombombing was important to expose because Black people were targeted most.

Platforms like Zoom tend to protect infiltrators more than the targeted audiences, they said.

Stiverson and Lindsey reiterated the need for more institutions to voice disapproval of Zoombombing.

Individuals are ignored, they noted in their talk, which was presented by Student Life and the Black Abolitionist Archive at Detroit Mercy.

“Zoom needs to pivot away from neutrality to responsibility,” said Stiverson. “It needs antiracist policies, values and participation from people of color who are most harmed by it, and preferably that participation be paid.”