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IUSG shuts down town hall after event 'Zoombombed' with racial slur, porn



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Rachel Aranyi, a sophomore IU Student Government presidential candidate, speaks during a town hall meeting Wednesday on Zoom. The meeting was “Zoombombed” by a few users around 10 minutes into the public online event. Luzane Draughon

IUSG shut down its online town hall around 10 minutes into the event Wednesday evening after random users "Zoombombed" the meeting by repeating a racial slur and shared porn from their screen. The host, Quinn Gordon, senior and election commission chair, shut the meeting down shortly after.

“We are in the process of rescheduling,” Gordon said in a text to the Indiana Daily Student. “Obviously we are trying to prevent something like what happened tonight from happening again."

Zoombombing, when a random person enters a public Zoom call and uses the screen sharing and messaging function to share graphic content, is on the rise as the app's popularity is skyrocketing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

IUSG shared a link to the meeting, which was supposed to be an opportunity for students to as question the two campaigns, Inspire and Defy, before the upcoming April 15 election, on social media.

Gordon said the election commission is unsure whether or not a live audience will be allowed at the rescheduled event. There were around 30 people in the meeting when the Zoombombing occurred.

An individual entered the meeting, which was being recorded, and began repeating a racial slur while the candidates were answering questions about how their campaigns will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel Aranyi, sophomore and presidential candidate for the Inspire campaign, was speaking about her campaign’s petition for students to receive tuition and mandatory fee refunds, when a few other individuals joined the meeting and repeated the same racial slur out loud and typed it into the chat function.

Shortly after, another individual began screen sharing images of pornography. The screen share was stopped by Gordon, but then restarted. The meeting was then ended by Gordon.

"It is unclear if these individuals were affiliated with IU," Gordon said.

The event began with opening statements from the two campaigns. All the candidates spoke briefly about what their campaigns stand for and what policy changes they want to bring to IU before the Zoombombing occurred.

Aranyi said she thinks everyone in IUSG is frustrated and disappointed about what happened. She said she and her vice presidential candidate, Ruhan Syed, hoped to use this event to talk more about their vision for IUSG.

“The town hall became a venue to spread racism and hate,” Aranyi said in a text to the Indiana Daily Student. “Speech like that has no place at Indiana University and we condemn it in the strongest terms.”

Aranyi said she will work with the Office of Student Conduct to ensure these acts are investigated.

Madeline Garcia, presidential candidate for the Defy campaign, said what happened at the town hall was unexpected, but the campaign are thankful the Election Commission reached out to schedule a new time for the town hall to take place. 

She said they look forward to answering students’ questions in the future.

The University Information and Technology Services recently released information about what to do to prevent Zoombombing when it occurs. They suggest preventing participants from being able to screen share, requiring a password and muting participants.

The website said Zoombombing should be reported to the University Information Security Office.

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