Professor started a petition against Zoom after being „Zoombombed“ by racist trolls

Over two thousand people have signed an online petition calling on to Zoom to address racist cyber attacks on their platform after a black professor was „Zoombombed“ by trolls who wrote “N-word” on his screen while he was defending his dissertation online.

„Imagine spending years on your research, getting to the final step that decides whether you earn your doctorate degree or not, only to have your presentation interrupted and the company refusing to address the wider issue — the racist cyber attacks on their platform“, wrote Nicole Tinson who signed the petition started by the professor.

He is Dr. Dennis L. Johnson, Jr.,, first-generation college graduate from the Southside of Chicago.

This is what he wrote after the incident.

„I worked diligently to get to March 26th – the day I would finally get to defend my dissertation and earn my doctorate of education degree from California State University, Long Beach.

Due to the social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic, the University uses Zoom Video Conferencing for these types of presentations. The chair of my committee made the introductions and I started presenting. I spent the first 10 minutes gliding through my presentation. It was truly a moment I felt ready for. As I moved into the section to discuss my research participants, I noticed a red mark on my computer.

For a brief second I thought someone else was sharing their screen at the same time as mine, but then more red marks appeared. Soon, more marks were made to create the shape of a penis. I stopped my presentation and asked my zoom facilitator if they could remove the marks. Seconds later, the letters N-I-G-G-E-R were written on the screen followed by pictures and videos of pornography. Like everyone else, I was shocked. My university’s technology personnel and college department members began to scramble. They were trying to figure out what was going on and how to take the cyberattacker out of the Zoom meeting.

Minutes later, I along with my committee members, began to apologize to the audience members for what has happened. I then continued with the presentation as if nothing had happened.

After I was done with my presentation and my committee said congratulations, “Dr. Dennis Johnson,” I said thank you but I couldn’t enjoy the moment. Truth be told, no matter how much I brushed it off, my moment had been taken and there was nothing I could do about to get it back. On one of my most remarkable moments of my life, I was called a “nigger”. My mother, grandmother, sister, spouse and many others were shown images of pornography.

After the incident, professor Johnson started a petition.

On Zoom’s website, the only help offered is an article on “How to Keep the Party Crashers from Crashing Your Zoom Event”. That is a slap in the face to me. I’ve never been to a party where I was called a Nigger. These are racist cyber attacks; not innocent party crashers just stopping by to say hey.”

I never want anyone to experience what happened to me. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. Over the past few weeks, Black people have been targeted disproportionately on Zoom by trolls who have yelled “nigger” during children’s storytimes and professor’s open office hours. The University of Southern California even issued an email to professors warning them that Zoom classes had been disrupted by “racist and vile language.”

“It’s time for Zoom to create a real solution to this problem!” wrote the professor who offered a list of possible solutions.

THESE ARE HIS PROPOSED SOLUTIONS

Ruha Benjamin, an associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University, who has also experienced Zoombombing, has publicly called on Zoom to change its default setting to “off” for screen sharing to limit the potential for Zoombombing, which I support, wrote Johnson.

Other proposed solutions include:

1. Upon entering a Zoom meeting, Zoom should post a message saying that it does not condone discriminatory and other unlawful acts, and that those who display such behavior will be banned from using its services.

2. Hire a Chief Diversity Officer to mitigate issues of discrimination and inequity on Zoom’s platform.

3. Add technology that auto-detects and flags those who post discriminatory language and images, and have them removed. Relying on individuals to fully understand the software’s platform demonstrates Zoom’s unwillingness to simply create a systemic change to protect its users, instead of relying on the user to protect themselves against these cyber attacks.

4. Revise the Zoom guide on preventing “party crashers.” What was done to us was not the act of someone crashing a party, but a direct racist attack on who we are as people of color, and this has to be named. They posted those images and wrote the N-word while I was giving a historical analysis of Black people in the United States. Therefore, Zoom needs to be more intentional with its language. It’s not a party crasher, it’s a racist/ discriminatory person(s) displaying unlawful behavior via the internet, that should be held accountable.

5. A formal apology to myself and those who have become victims to a trend that Zoom has failed to publicly acknowledge and address accordingly.

You can see the petition HERE

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