This is the second case of ‘zoom-bombing’ involving UP Los Baños students.
An alternative classroom learning experience (ACLE) zoom meeting held by The Rhetoricians and Kulturang Ugnayan ng Kabataan Alay sa Bayan (KULAYAN UPLB) was zoom-bombed by a user named “James Forrest” this afternoon.
In the middle of the discussion entitled “Online Classroom Instruction”, the user interrupted the discussion by ‘rickrolling’ the participants in the meeting via share-screen. Rickrolling is a prank where the perpetrator baits unsuspecting victims to an unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
The user then proceeded to flash clips of Nazi propaganda, even going as far as arguing with the organizers that they were not distracting them. Even after the user was apparently removed from the meeting, loud music was still heard on the stream.
The online event, which was the second installment in KULAYAN UPLB’s ACLE series, was hosted on a public Zoom meeting (anyone could come in without a password) and was live streamed simultaneously on their Facebook page.
Last June 24, the UPLB College of Human Ecology’s Council of Student Leaders Meeting was also zoom-bombed by harassers spouting racist remarks, and even wrote the “n-word” on the screen.
Zoom Privacy concerns
Video conferencing app Zoom has faced backlash for its privacy and security issues in the past—users have complained about being startled by porn during meetings, as well as encountering racist images and threatening language. According to a report by TechRepublic, Zoom has been banned for government use in the Australian Defense Force, Taiwan, the German Foreign Ministry, the United States Senate, as well as in schools in New York City and Clark County Public Schools in Nevada.
The Philippines’ internet service providers Smart Communications, Inc. and PLDT Inc. has also banned the app for employee use, stating that “[the ban] was issued following several widely circulated reports about information security risks associated with the use of the application.” Since the pandemic, Filipinos have become reliant on apps such as Zoom to socialize online, work from home, and even attend webinars and online classes.
The said zoom-bombing raised security and privacy concerns in the upcoming resumption of classes this academic year, on which universities and colleges are shifting into blended learning.
Jael Apostol, one of the organizers who conducted the said ACLE, explained that online classes are vulnerable on these kind of cyber attacks.
“For a technologically disadvantaged society, scavenging off of what excess capital is being shipped to our markets and all that, and not having the ample knowledge of such attacks,” Apostol said.
He also expressed his disappointment to school administrators who are still pushing for blended learning in the upcoming semester.
“Kinaiinisan ko yung thought na the purveyors/advocates of online classes won’t be held liable for any breaches of privacy. Like, when it comes to that point na mangyari nga yun, be it of any age of any barangay, kawawa naman yung mga nakasubaybay… Nakakadismaya na parang mentality ng mga higher ups on pushing for “blended learning” ay di man lang lapat sa kakayanan ng mga majority of their contituents,” Apostol said.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is pushing for the opening of classes, despite the coronavirus pandemic and the lack of resources for many Filipinos. In a CHED advisory last March, the commission advised that schools “deploy available distance learning, e-learning, and other alternative modes of delivery in lieu of residential learning if they have the resources to do so.” However, professors and students have expressed that online classes can be ‘disadvantageous’ to those who are underprivileged.
In the UPLB Townhall Meeting with the UP Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) last June, concerned students and university-wide and college-student councils raised contentions on the university’s plans to conduct remote and blended learning. According to Jainno Bongon of the UPLB University Student Council (USC), surveys and consultations conducted by the USC led to the resolution to not proceed with classes as long as there is no mass testing in the country. [P]