A public hearing for East Baton Rouge Parish’s five-year strategic plan addressing community needs and plans for federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was disrupted this afternoon by a group of “Zoombombers.”
Build Baton Rouge and city-parish officials were using video chat app Zoom for the joint public hearing, which was disrupted early on by seemingly three hackers. While Zoom has grown in popularity as people shifted to working from home because of coronavirus restrictions, the company has been criticized because of privacy issues like Zoombombing, where hackers will hijack a Zoom meeting. Besides public hearings, Zoombombers have also interrupted city council meetings, doctoral dissertations and online university lectures across the country.
Today, within minutes of the meeting starting, a man posted a vulgar request in the Zoom chat and the screen sharing was taken over by someone drawing lewd images and messages.
“I was trying to help you out,” one of the men said.
After a failed second attempt to continue the presentation, officials ended the meeting, saying that it would be rescheduled. The hackers said they would find the next meeting as well. There were more than 50 people attending the hearing at the time of the attack.
“During a virtual public meeting today for Build Baton Rouge and Office of Community Development, there was a sudden interruption due to technical difficulties,” a statement from Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s office reads.
The meeting is scheduled to be re-posted for viewers on Friday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was first published to show that the meeting will not be held on Friday, but instead posted for viewers on Friday. Daily Report regrets the error.