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Mass. church ‘zoom-bombed’ during online service with KKK cross-burning video; police investigating

Mass. church ‘zoom-bombed’ during online service with KKK cross-burning video; police investigating

Tabernacle Congregational Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ located in Salem, Massachusetts. | Courtesy Tabernacle Church

A congregation in Massachusetts was the subject of a “Zoom-bombing,” in which their online service was interrupted by someone posting a racist video.

Tabernacle Congregational Church, a theologically progressive United Church of Christ congregation in Salem, was streaming an online worship service on Sunday, April 19.

About 10 and a half minutes into the service, a group of people entered the service and eventually posted footage of a Ku Klux Klan meeting that showed a cross burning.

They also took over the audio and made multiple racist remarks and played a song with similarly racially insensitive lyrics, especially aimed at African-Americans.

The Rev. Joe Amico, pastor at Tabernacle, recalled in an interview with The Christian Post on Monday that the zoom bombers “kept asking our host to share the screen and as soon as she denied and kicked one off another zoomed in until she ended the meeting.”

Amico noted that they immediately alerted the Salem Police Liaison to the City of Salem No Place for Hate Committee about the incident, which the church having since made changes to their online service.

“We have removed links for our services from social media and only give the links to our email list. We feel badly because we had been having visitors join our worship.  Now folks have to contact us for the link and be vetted by how they know us,” he explained.

The case has been forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As of last Friday, authorities are still investigating the incident, which is being considered a hate crime.

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Tabernacle is one of many incidents of “Zoom bombing,” in which intruders will hijack a Zoom meeting or other video conference and post inflammatory or offensive content.

Zoom bombing has become a growing issue due to the rise in usage of teleconferencing sites because of stay-at-home orders related to curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

In late March, the FBI’s Boston office issued a warning about the growing problem, recommending various solutions, including not making teleconferences public, not sharing links to Zoom meetings on social media, and limiting who can control screen-sharing.

“The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language,” stated the FBI last month.

“As individuals continue the transition to online lessons and meetings, the FBI recommends exercising due diligence and caution in your cybersecurity efforts.”

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