A “Zoombombing” of the Aug. 25 videoconference meeting of the Three Forks City Council has forced the city to implement new procedures for the public to view and participate in future meetings.
City Treasurer Kelly Smith said an individual nobody recognized busted into last week’s public meeting, interrupting it with profanity and posts of inappropriate pictures.
The meeting was ended abruptly, and councilmembers were able to finish their business via speakerphone. Citizens wishing to listen to the audio call or review the meeting minutes may do so at City Hall.
Three Forks City Hall’s maximum capacity normally is 46, but with 6-foot physical distancing guidelines in place because of COVID-19, the maximum number of people allowed in the building is about 10 or 12, Smith said. During the pandemic, the council has been meeting via Zoom and will continue to do so; however, the public will not be given Zoom login information for meetings, Smith said.
In order for the public to listen in, the city plans to air the meetings in real time on Facebook Live. Smith said a delay up to several minutes occurs when transferring the Zoom feed to Facebook, which makes it impractical for citizens to comment or testify during public hearings over the Facebook medium.
Instead, members of the public who wish to testify will be required to go to City Hall to speak in person. If the maximum number of citizens exceeds the allowable capacity in the building, individuals will be asked to wait outside for their turn to come in and address the council.
A public hearing on preliminary approval for the proposed Headwaters Planned Unit Development is scheduled to take place during the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. Members of the public who wish to comment should go to City Hall.
“Zoombombing” is defined by Wikipedia as “an unwanted, disruptive intrusion, generally by Internet trolls and hackers, into a video conference call. In a typical Zoombombing incident, a teleconferencing session is hijacked by the insertion of material that are lewd, obscene, racist, or antisemitic (sic) in nature, typically resulting of the shutdown of the session.”
The practice has become widespread since the pandemic began, causing “significant issues in particular for schools, companies, and organizations worldwide. Such incidents have resulted in increased scrutiny on Zoom as well as restrictions on usage of the platform by educational, corporate, and governmental institutions globally,” according to Wikipedia.
Smith said the Three Forks incident is being investigated by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department.