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‘Zoom-Bombers’ Allegedly Disrupt Bellisario College Panel With Hate Speech

More than a dozen unidentified individuals joined a virtual Penn State alumni panel Tuesday night to direct hate speech at attendees.

According to messages obtained from some event guests, the “Zoom-bombers” joined the call and allegedly filled the Zoom meeting’s chat with hate speech, including repeated use of the N-word and other “racist things.”

A brief portion of the incident can be seen in this cell phone video obtained by Onward State. Upon entering, one user can be heard saying, “What’s up, fuckers?”

The Zoom meeting ended two minutes after the assailants crashed the call. Event staffers relaunched the meeting a few moments later, but the unwanted individuals reportedly returned again and continued their verbal attacks. Organizers reportedly pulled the plug altogether at approximately 6:40 p.m.

The event, hosted by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, aimed to introduce students to digital media and marketing strategies through hearing from a diverse group of Penn State alumni. Some classes, including COMM 271, a popular introductory multimedia journalism course, offered students extra credit for attending.

“We are again deeply disturbed to learn of another highly offensive online assault, meant to not only shock, but to gain attention for ideas and hate-filled rhetoric that have absolutely no place on our campus,” Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said.

University police are investigating the incident. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact police at (814) 863-1111 or submit a tip online.

Marie Hardin, Bellisario’s dean, released a statement to the panel’s guests Tuesday, noting that the college and university at large are taking the incident “very seriously.”

“We are truly sorry that you were put through this disturbing experience<” Hardin said. “The Bellisario College strives to create a safe and accepting environment for our students, and we do not tolerate the racist and homophobic slurs that were used by the digital intruders into the event tonight. We are thinking of you and want you to know how much we regret that this happened.”

This is far from Penn State’s first reported “Zoom-bombing.” One unwanted individual allegedly joined a Black History Month event Monday to “reenact” the police killing of George Floyd, while more than 50 users allegedly crashed a Black Caucus Zoom meeting during the Involvement Fair last month to direct hate speech at executives.

Moving forward, the students and event leaders can take steps to protect their Zoom meetings. Namely, they should avoid sharing meeting passwords in public channels or changing default security settings.

Hosts are also encouraged to control how participants can join, allow only authenticated users in, limit screen-sharing, and record meetings to help identify potential unwanted users.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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