Several people hijacked a virtual service of a predominately Asian-American church in Englewood, uttering ethnic slurs and posting pornographic images, authorities said.
More than 150 congregants and others with the Bergen County church were subject to the bias attack on Zoom, Police Detective Capt. Timothy Torell said Saturday.
Although invasions of video conferences were once dismissed as trolling, that changed once the spread of COVID-19 made Zoom the app of choice for many forced to communicate remotely.
The FBI considers the systemic “weaponization” of Zoom as hate speech and harassment. In other words: It’s a federal offense.
Fines and possible imprisonment await those convicted of “disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications,” the bureau says.
Those penalties could get even stiffer as Congress works toward an anti-Asian American hate crimes law amid a dramatic increase in bias incidents fueled by the pandemic.
Anyone with information that could help find those responsible for the April 3 Englewood “Zoombombing” is asked to contact Crimestoppers, which offers cash rewards up to a $1,000 for any information that significantly assists detectives in their investigations.
Tips can be made anonymously on the group’s website at Bergen Crimestoppers or by calling 844-466-6789, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Or call city detectives directly at (201) 568-4875 or Englewood PD: (201) 568-2711.
Meanwhile, authorities say you can help prevent “Zoombombing” by:
- not making meetings public;
- only providing the meeting link directly to invitees;
- requiring a unique password;
- using a virtual waiting room to control guests;
- muting audio and disabling video upon entry;
- making sure settings indicate that the only people allowed to share their screens are hosts;
- locking a meeting once it starts.
ALSO SEE: A self-described Christian missionary was arrested after Englewood police said he used a drone to peer into the second-floor office of an abortion doctor he was stalking.
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