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Preventing “Zoom-Bombing” at the Faculty of Law

Panel discussion by U of T Law student group disrupted by Internet trolls

The Faculty of Law is home to a large number of student-run clubs catering to a variety of interests. This year, due to indoor gathering restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, club events are held entirely online, typically over Zoom. 

On October 30, the University of Toronto Women & the Law student organization, with support from the Students’ Law Society (SLS), hosted a panel discussion centered on working as a woman in public interest law. The panel consisted of three female-identifying lawyers: Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda, Kelly Doctor, and Angela Chiasson

In anticipation for the panel, the Zoom link was posted on the official Women & the Law’s Facebook event page, which advertised the event as a public, online event. 

At the beginning of the panel, unidentified Zoom attendees directed a variety of harmful slurs to the panelists and club executive members both verbally and through the chat function. According to the Women & the Law’s official statement, these slurs contained anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-trans, and misogynistic rhetoric. Following this disruption, the meeting was locked by the host and after several minutes, the disruptive attendees were removed and the event continued. 

That same evening, the Women & the Law posted an official statement on their Facebook and Instagram pages where they acknowledged the intrusion and extended a “heartfelt apology to everyone who attended [the] event or was affected by [it],” claiming that “none of what was said represents Women & the Law.” In their statement, they also indicated that they intend to meet with the Faculty of Law’s administration to discuss how to ensure “a safe space for all attendees” for future events. 

Moving forward, all Faculty of Law events now require organizers to email attendees the Zoom link for the event to their school email, and ensure that the participants are indeed members of the Faculty or known guests. The meeting session URL may no longer be shared on public platforms. These recommendations echo Zoom’s best practices on how to keep uninvited guests out, which have also been adopted by the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. Leaders of student clubs were notified of this new protocol for running Faculty-affiliated events in a November 9 email by Sara-Marni Hubbard, the Student Life and Inclusivity Program Manager. 

“Zoom-bombing,” the act of uninvited attendees entering and disrupting Zoom meetings, is not unique to events run by the Faculty of Law. Student groups at the University of Western Ontario faced similar Zoom-bombing earlier this year, and their recommendations to prevent future incidents were very similar to the Faculty of Law’s.

While it is unfortunate that security measures like these limit previously public events to just U of T law students, these precautions are necessary to keep meeting calls secure and to avoid Zoom-bombing. 

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