Zoom meetings targeted by abuse footage sharers

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Investigations are underway after at least three Zoom meetings have been infiltrated by people sharing footage of children who have been sexually abused.

The latest incident occurred on Tuesday during a legal education seminar on the videoconferencing platform.

A law lecturer, who was a guest speaker at the online event, said his computer screen was “overtaken” by “incredibly distressing” footage.

Zoom said he was “investigating” the incident.

The case was referred back to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, which is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

James Lee, an English-law reader at King’s College London, told BBC News that around 40 people attended the meeting, which had been publicized on social media.

After about 20 minutes, when he delivered his presentation, the session ended.

“All the screens were outdated by someone who shared images of abuse,” said Lee.

“I tried to unplug all the plugs from my computer.

“I’ve never seen anything like this – it was incredibly distressing.”

“Absolutely nauseated”

The event was suspended but other footage of child abuse appeared when it resumed, so it was abandoned.

Three pre-recorded video clips are thought to have been played. They have been described by those present as containing images of the most extreme abuse of very young children.

Professor Michael Doherty, of Lancaster University, who organized the virtual meeting, said on Twitter: “I just had an absolutely terrible Zoombombing experience … huge apologies to everyone during the meeting.

“We will have to switch to a different system with password and invitation. Absolutely nauseated,” he wrote.

Last week, a Zoom meeting organized by the federation of 40,000 young green Europeans was infiltrated by someone who sent material for child sexual abuse.

It was reported to the police in Belgium, where the organization is based.

A similar incident is believed to have occurred last Friday during an online discussion of Covid-19 contact tracking apps, hosted by the Open Rights Group, which aims to “preserve and promote” people’s rights in the digital age.

The Internet Watch Foundation, which works to remove the content of child abuse from the web, said it had been notified.

Zoom said he was “investigating” the incident.

A company spokesman said: “These incidents are truly devastating and frightening, and our user policies explicitly prohibit any obscene, indecent, illegal or violent activity or content on the platform.

“Zoom strongly condemns this behavior and has recently updated several features to help our users more easily protect their meetings.”

The company said it made the Zoom meeting ID less visible and added a new security icon to the meeting controls.

“We encourage users to report any such incidents to Zoom so that they can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities,” added the spokesman.

Earlier this month, Eric Yuan, Zoom’s chief executive officer, apologized for “failing to comply” with security issues and promised to improve security and privacy features.

The ANC said it was aware of a “number” of reports.

ANC Deputy Director Charles Yates said: “The ANC is working with partners in the UK and abroad, law enforcement and the private sector, to respond to these cases.

“The operators of these platforms must do everything possible to ensure that their services are not exploited or compromised in this way, particularly at a time when live streaming applications have experienced significant increases in their use.”

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