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BIPOC UBC climate justice panel spammed with racial slurs during virtual event

Last Updated Mar 10, 2021 at 9:56 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

Someone began using racial and hateful slurs in a chatbox for a UBC event on climate change and justice Friday

BIPOC panelist says he didn't let racist comments derail his conversation at climate event

At least three events have now been 'Zoom-bombed' over the course of a week

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — Yet another incident of harassment during an online Zoom event has come to light, after someone spammed a UBC panel with hateful and racial slurs.

The public event was a discussion on climate justice and included three people of colour: a Haida woman and Indigenous activist, Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, an African international doctoral fellow with the Allard Law School, Temitope Onifade, and lawyer Eugene Kung with West Coast Environmental Law. UBC Climate professor Kathryn Harrison was also a panelist.

The event was to kick off a webinar series on climate change and justice, an issue that is closely intertwined with racial inequality. It took place the morning of March 5, 2021.

Onifade says he was about to speak when he noticed comments in the chat box including the ‘N’ word and references to violence. While it nearly derailed him, he was able to ignore the commenter.

Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, says the attacker was someone in attendance at the meeting, not a hacker.

“An attendee posted racist comments in the chat. Those comments were completely unacceptable, obviously,” he says, adding another attendee has reported the incident to police.

The UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI) that hosted the event was able to remove the offender from the chat and call “within several minutes,” according to The Ubyssey.

The event was not completely disrupted as the discussion about Indigenous sovereignty and pipelines, climate change, and associated injustices continued.

The USI apologized immediately to participants and is now “reviewing its approach to webinars just to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future,” says Ramsey.

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He says it’s not possible yet to know if this was a student or someone from outside of the university, which is another reason he’s glad it has been reported to authorities.

Ramsey and UBC are asking students, faculty, and staff to be diligent in using the Zoom platform.

He says hosts should always use meeting passwords and avoid sending out meeting links, as well as utilize the waiting room feature to keep unwanted guests out and limit who can share screens.

This is the third incident to come to light regarding Zoom-based harassment.

On March 6, the so-called “Zoom-bombing” of an International Women’s Day event in Richmond saw pornography broadcast to participants through screen share.

Following that event a virtual filibuster aimed at stopping Bill C-7 was interrupted by pornographic sounds and white supremacy imagery.

-With files from Amanda Wawryk