California church sues after bible study class ‘Zoombombed’ with child sexual abuse

Hijacking of video call ‘violated’ sanctity of one of San Francisco’s oldest churches, lawsuit states

Gino Spocchia
Friday 15 May 2020 11:55 BST
California state official throws pet cat during Zoom meeting

A San Francisco church has launched legal action against the video conferencing company Zoom after an online bible studies class was interrupted by images of child sexual abuse.

The Saint Paulus Lutheran Church said "sick and disturbing videos" were broadcast when the Zoom class was “hijacked” on 6 May.

According to the church, Zoom “did nothing” when contacted for assistance over the incident, which it said had “violated” the sanctity of St Paulus.

"The footages were sick and sickening - portraying adults engaging in sexual acts with each other and performing sexual acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them," the lawsuit states.

In a statement, Zoom told The Independent it was “upset” about the incident but denied inaction.

“Words cannot express how strongly we condemn such behaviour," a spokesperson said.

"On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to the relevant authorities”.

The lawsuit described the culprit as a "known offender - one who has been reported to the authorities multiple times".

The church has accused Zoom of "prioritising profit and revenue over data protection and user security" during the coronavirus pandemic and is seeking damages.

"The church filed this lawsuit only after Zoom refused to take its concerns seriously," said Mark Molumphy, one of the church's lawyers, to CNN.

Eight class members’ computer control systems were disabled by the hijackers, according to the lawsuit. When the members, most of whom were elderly, attempted to end the video call and start again, the hackers came back.

Zoom, whose use has surged during worldwide coronavirus lockdowns, this week promised enhanced security measures including end-to-end encryption to protect against the hijacking of calls - known as 'Zoombombing'.

Around 60 young people saw footage of child sex abuse after an online fitness class held over Zoom by a Plymouth sports club was hacked, police said last week.

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