Teachers As Victims Of Zoombombing

Virtually all teachers will not have been trained to teach virtually.

Delivering online classes is not something many teachers will have ever been trained for yet have been plonked into the heart of it and are having to learn as they go.

Initially, when the first lockdown was announced last year, online education was nothing more than “emergency remote teaching” and substandard. Things have improved since then and online meeting tools like Zoom and Google Meet have become the new norm and central to our lives.

But there are problems with COVID-19 schooling. Fostering a supportive learning environment on a virtual platform requires special considerations.

One of the more serious issues they will have to deal with is being ‘zoombombed’.

Zoombombing sounds like it could be quite painful. The thing is this is no joke.

This is essentially internet trolling on video conferencing whereby an aggressor takes over the audio and video controls to broadcast inappropriate materials and remarks. That is serious stuff.

Zoombombing has been used to perpetrate hate speech and harassment targeting people based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. Aggressors have infiltrated online classes and shared offensive, obscene, violent and racist content and imagery.

To provide an example of how serious things can get then Walsh et al (2021) note,

In April 2020, the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center suffered a traumatic videoconference intrusion (“Zoombombing”) with racist imagery and video of sexual violence against minors.

Zoom has a dark side – “The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language.”

Internet impropriety certainly isn’t new but teachers will be ill-prepared for being disrupted, hijacked and derailed by Wild West mischief makers hellbent on causing maximum disruption.

So what do they do?

At the most unsophisticated level of operation then a Zoom troll locates a Zoom link shared on a public channel like Twitter, accesses a meeting that does not require a password, and abuses the chat, screen-sharing and file transfer privileges.

Teachers won’t normally be the victims here unless students share links with their peers from other classes and schools. Ling et al (2020) in their research found that the trolls aren’t just gatecrashing outsiders but insiders who have legitimate access.

This has important security implications, because it makes common protections against zoombombing, such as password protection, ineffective. We also find instances of insiders instructing attackers to adopt the names of legitimate participants in the class to avoid detection, making countermeasures like setting up a waiting room and vetting participants less effective. Based on these observations, we argue that the only effective defense against zoombombing is creating unique join links for each participant.

Mohanty and Yaqub (2020) offer another solution based “on PRNU (Photo Response Non-Uniformity)-based camera authentication, which can authenticate the camera of a device used in a Zoom meeting without requiring any assistance from the participants.”

Disruptive, uninvited attendees are by definition not welcome but the issue is that it isn’t the outside we have to worry about but a minority of students on the inside. If this is the case then teachers need to create norms for participating in web conferences.

What steps can teachers take to model and facilitate effective digital citizenship practices?

They must work with students to build an understanding of internet etiquette or netiquette. Similar to creating an ideal classroom climate for learning, there need to be high expectations and clear behaviours to facilitate a positive learning experience.

Learning sessions in the virtual space are not ideal and will always be second-rate compared to face to face (F2F) learning. Let’s all hope that COVID-19 education ends soon.

Using Microsoft Teams for live lessons substantially reduces the risk of Zoombombing.

For further help then see the article by Zoom How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event.

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