The far-right Zoombombing hate speech crisis in town halls: "a deliberate tactic being employed to remove people's ability to engage democratically"

Originally published at:


This is one of the reasons I love the BBS so much: excellent and engaged moderation.

Hear me out: this article is an example why aggressive suppression of hateful and threatening speech is necessary for actual free speech. There is no free speech if the “quiet” voices are suppressed by the obnoxious ones. Even microaggressions will stifle the voices of wonderful and creative and thoughtful people who are scared off by subtle racist or sexist digs and unexamined privilege.

Much of the toxicity of online spaces are because of this asymmetry. Nonexistent or lazy moderation turns online spaces into Nazi bars. Ironically, moderators afraid to censor toxic speech harm free speech more than overzealous moderation.


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Particularly troubling about this (among so, so many other things!?!) is that it is the civic level of politics where the most engagement between citizens and the political system occurs.

Democracy has a participatory problem at all levels. But, to push away people at the level where we can most engage, be heard, and have an affect (and, you know, learn others’ perspectives on-the-ground) is heinous IMO.


Well, yeah… they don’t want democracy. That should be abundantly clear by now…


Local council meetings and school boards are also the traditional entry point for people seeking a career in politics, so this kind of toxic environment can stifle an entire generation of would-be political leaders before they even get started.


They are trying to stake out the entry level of politics for their own boyz by preventing anyone else from getting a word in edge(lord)wise.


Tempting to find and raid. “Pool’s closed!”


The last 20 years have been regularly punctuated by seeing the myriad ways the amazing benefits of the internet can be perverted.


They’ll just have to shut down the Zoom sessions until some remedy is discovered. It can’t be right to allow local council proceedings to be disrupted by out of towners.


What about the actual citizens who need to use zoom to attend? :woman_shrugging:


Right-wingers of all sorts are only capable of defining “engagement” as “battle”. More mainstream Republicans use local politics as a farm team and test market for issues and talking poins. Libertarians use mainly it to starve itself. Qnuts and MAGAts and Xtianists use it as means to foist their dangerous and anti-democratic theories on their neighbours. And, as we see here, white supremacists and fascists use it as an opportunity to express their natural inclination to be bullies and vandals and thugs.

None of them are interested in civic politics as a means of actually governing.


Has it occurred to anyone that Zoom is fundamentally the wrong tool for this?

Zoom was developed to facilitate business meetings, where the behavior of the participants is held in check by existing structures within the business and where everyone is assumed to be professional and working toward the same goal. Anyone who acts disruptively will be sanctioned in established ways by their employer.

Zoom offers no tools to counter deliberate disruption because, in the original use case, it doesn’t need them. (Allowing the host to mute participants is more aimed at reducing accidental than deliberate disruption).

Now use that technology to handle a meeting where there is no control over who may participate, and no effective way of containing intruders who come in with the sole purpose of creating chaos, whether for political ends or for shits and giggles. Even an in-person town hall meeting has more tools than Zoom for handling disruption.

This is not to excuse the behavior of the hateful idiots described in the post. It’s just to point out that using a tool designed for one specific use-case in a very different type of situation carries predictable risks.


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However, I don’t see silicon valley racing to create public domain software to facilitate public engagement, which is something many techdudebros actively loath. :woman_shrugging: These companies have been bribing technology folks away from the public sector, because they don’t want to see the public sector flourish… even NASA wasn’t safe from that shit. Or look at the roll out of the Obamacare website. As long as we have this stupid ideology of “the private sector is all that matters” the public sector will continued to be starved of talent in the technology field.

The only thing that’s going to fix that is regulation of the tech sector.


You know, I thought to myself “Surely Zoom has some sort of Kick functionality, right? You know, that thing that’s been part of game server code for AGES.”
Turns out, nope.

I mean what the actual?
This is real basic shit.

But then, the same has happened with online games and the move to corporate hosted servers instead of community hosted ones.

Enshittification proceeds apace.


When $$$$ is paramount to good design, this is what ya get…

Jada Pinkett Smith Periodt GIF by Red Table Talk


Yes. It’s been said that techbros only develop solutions to problems that they themselves have. True of all of us, I guess, but it does mean that they’re more likely to make a product – Zoom – to solve a problem they have – remote office meetings – than one that they don’t have – effective local government and public engagement. Even where they’re not actively antipathetic to grassroots politics, it’s just not on their concern radar.

The US philosophy that private wealth is the ultimate good and all that that entails – the private sector forever taking priority over the public, the vigorous rejection of the idea that public wealth could be in any way important, let alone that it might ever be allowed to take precedence over private wealth, etc. etc. – seems to me like a recipe for disaster, both ethical and practical. And we may be fast approaching the point at which that disaster can no longer be ignored, let alone averted. But that’s just me, and even my timid belief that, you know, we might actually live in a community where there are more than merely individual interests brands me as some kind of goddamn Communist.

So you’re right, it would be naive to expect the private sector to fix this particular problem. I had hopes that volunteerism and open-source technology might respond to problems that the private sector doesn’t acknowledge – and to some extent they sometimes do – but they’re not without issues of their own.

As a sidenote, it occurs to me that a “public Zoom” with effective moderation controls could just as easily be used by a corrupt local administration to silence critics as by a benign one to neutralize griefers, so there are no slam-dunk solutions here.


Not really. Not everyone is/was/has been so myopic. It’s just that far too often, critics of the California ideology have been dismissed as the ones who just “hate freedoms” or whatever.

Kind of my point.

Again, yeah. My point.

I’d argue that happened a while ago, but it’s not starting to have an impact on people who has previously been immune, and so some are starting to pay attention to what a few decades of neoliberal policies have done.

They are still operating under a similar set of ideas, though. The open source community might be full of idealists, but as long as the rule is that “the private sector is the only way to fix our problems” then we’re gonna get the same outcome, whatever the idealism might be.


From what I understand, the Zoom sessions being strafed by hordes of far-right-wingers are ruined for genuine participants.

Perhaps the council could issue secure login IDs to their constituents to prevent interlopers from gaining access to meetings.


You know, for ages I thought “Mindysan uses an awful lot of gifs; maybe too many.”

Then Mindysan gifed me and I was all like “ehrmagerd, Mindysan gifed me, squeeeeeeee!”