The Langley City Council is the most recent victim of a disruption perpetrated by online intruders.
During the public comment section of the council’s teleconferenced meeting Monday night, an unknown caller joined the meeting and began sharing an explicit video of pornography with the meeting’s participants.
Council members were taken aback by the unexpected intrusion and requested a five-minute break immediately following the disturbance. The meeting continued without any further harassment.
Mayor Scott Chaplin referred to the phenomenon as “Zoom-bombing,” which is the unwanted intrusion by internet “trolls” in a video conference call. News outlets around the nation have reported on the hijacking occurrences, which involve the sharing of material that is obscene, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic and/or antisemitic.
The Langley City Council is not alone in these attacks. In February 2021 during a teleconferenced meeting, the Port of South Whidbey experienced a similar pornographic incident, which was accompanied by videos of Confederate flags and racial slurs uttered by the online gate-crashers.
In an email to the South Whidbey Record, Chaplin said he and staff reviewed the video of Monday’s meeting and noticed that the person who came on screen shortly before the pornographic video started was not the same person depicted in the video. He wondered if the person behind the intrusion could be a white supremacist who wants to make other races look bad.
“I am going to ask some people more familiar with hate crimes and activities about this,” he said. “I suspect it was a ‘false flag Zoombomb’ in which the person who perpetrated it was trying to make another person or group of people look bad.”
Langley Chief of Police Tavier Wasser, however, said he believed the mayor may have been a little overzealous with his reporting of the issue.
“We are actively investigating this incident, images, and cannot label anyone who may or may not have been involved,” Wasser said in an email to the Record. “The images presented in the council meeting have been collected for evidence.”
If charges are sought, he added, the most applicable would be indecent exposure and/or disorderly conduct.
Chaplin said the city will be changing its protocol for anyone from the audience who wishes to appear at Zoom meetings to try to ensure that this type of thing never happens again.
“At a minimum, guests will only be heard until their identity can be verified, and then we will allow them to join the meetings by video,” he said.