An unexpected interruption led to a quite the commotion in Nipigon’s council chambers on Tuesday night.
Everything started out with business as usual when the township began their council meeting on Dec. 5 until about 10 minutes into the meeting when one viewer — identified only by the screen name “Jaylin” — used the “hand-raise” feature to get council’s attention.
From there, the anonymous viewer began broadcasting sexually explicit, racist, and homophobic content in what can only be presumed was an effort to disrupt proceedings.
The disruption came just as council was about to discuss a petition related to a proposed municipal accommodation tax.
In response to an email inquiry, Mayor Suzanne Kukko said that while this has “never happened before” the township is taking appropriate measures to make sure it never happens again.
“Our staff has reached out to our tech support team and we are putting measures in place to prevent anything like that happening in the future,” Kukko said.
Despite attempts to close and restart the Zoom meeting, council was forced to remain offline after a second virtual attack that was equally as vulgar as the first.
Zoom’s trust and safety team claims that they have “taken action on the disruptor(s) based on [their] investigation” and pointed to newly implemented “in-meeting safety enhancements” that could help limit or prevent similar occurrences in the future.
The new features were introduced in October and include the ability for meeting hosts to pause meetings — using the “suspend participant activities” option — in order to remove any “bad actors” and report them using Zoom’s built-in webform.
Once removed, Zoom’s website claims that the participant cannot rejoin unless “allow removed participants to rejoin” is enabled in meeting settings.
It remains to be seen whether or not the culprit can be traced to an IP address of some kind for identification.
In our digital age, maintaining access to public proceedings such as municipal council meetings remains important to democratic practices.
However, this intrusion on municipal proceedings does raise some questions about how a municipality like Nipigon is equipped to tackle virtual security breaches and what other communities in the region could do when faced with a similar problem.
Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SNnewswatch.com