Like many municipal bodies, the City and Borough of Juneau has been conducting business via public meetings hosted on Zoom. While this has helped to keep the wheels of government turning, it's also opened the door to Zoom bombing. Zoom bombing happens when an anonymous party joins the meeting and shares graphic or lewd content. City officials are considering an ordinance that makes it illegal to Zoom bomb a meeting hosted from Juneau. This screen grab from CBJ's website shows the city assembly meeting via Zoom. (Screenshot)

Potential ordinance seeks to curb lewd, obscene and threatening language in virtual meetings

There’s no three-second delay in Zoom

Meeting by Zoom has made it easier for businesses and governments to conduct business during COVID-19 restrictions. However, it’s also made it easier for nefarious actors to drop into the discussion and share graphic content and obscene messages. The practice, called Zoom bombing, has Juneau officials looking at options to stop it.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, which next meets March 1, is considering an ordinance that makes it a crime to Zoom bomb meetings in the city and borough.

The Human Resources Committee asked CBJ municipal attorney Robert Palmer to draft an ordinance making the act illegal in any Zoom meeting hosted from within Juneau. The assembly will consider the measure at a future meeting.

According to Palmer’s description to the Human Resources Committee, Zoom bombing is the term for joining a meeting anonymously and showing inappropriate images or making comments that are lewd, threatening, obscene, or disruptive and out of context.

CBJ considers new restrictions on fireworks

City officials said that since CBJ has been meeting via Zoom due to COVID-19-related restrictions, a several incidents have highlighted the need for this ordinance, including one in August 2020.

“During the public portion of the meeting, someone called in and made shocking comments,” said Assembly member Carole Triem, who was the chair of the meeting when the Zoom bomb occurred.

The comments were directed at her and fell into the lewd category.

“I was just totally in shock and thinking let’s get on with the meeting,” Triem said in a phone interview. “The next day, I felt terrible and embarrassed. They have no idea who did it. You can be so anonymous when you call in.”

According to Palmer, it’s challenging to find out who is behind Zoom bombing incidents.

“Zoom says that if it’s a local crime, they will look into it. They suggested that if the CBJ wants to stop this, it needs to be added to the criminal code. Options are harassment or disorderly contact,” Palmer said.

Palmer explained that the ordinance must be crafted in a way that protects first amendment freedoms of speech but prevents threats, obscenities, and disruptive contact.

“It’s a balancing act,” Palmer said.

“I’m glad we are doing this now,” Triem said. “Even if Zoom never cooperates, if we say this is not acceptable behavior and we won’t tolerate it, even if we can’t track people down, it’s still positive. There’s value in saying it’s not OK.”

Missing live music? Perseverance Theatre to offer Zoom-based concert

“It’s a shame that we have to have this discussion,” Triem said.

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read