Home Hacking St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak online service hit by hackers

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak online service hit by hackers

by chief

A Royal Oak church had to cut online services short Sunday after hackers interrupted the Zoom session with racist comments.

St. John’s Episcopal Church located at 26998 Woodward Ave., was about 10 minutes into its 10 a.m. Sunday service over Zoom, when it was interrupted by individuals making racist slurs, according to the Rev. Beth Taylor, the church’s rector. 

More: Detroit dance instructor gets hacked, racially taunted during Zoom lesson

Taylor declined to repeat the comments, but the Detroit News reported they included the n-word, “Heil Hitler,” and symbols like swastikas. One of the individuals on the call also seemed to be wearing blackface, Detroit News reported. 

A staff member of the church attempted to mute the individuals, but they figured out how to unmute themselves, Taylor said. 

The Zoom sessions was ended and restarted, Taylor said, but about five minutes into the second call, the racial profanity began again. They decided out of respect for their church community to end it. 

“We will not cease our work to bring about a just and equitable community. We will not stop the work Jesus calls us to do – to renounce all forms of racism and hatred and bigotry,” Taylor said in a Facebook post to the church community. “We know this was a very disturbing morning, and we are going to do all that we can to prevent that from happening again.”

The individuals are believed to be from outside of the church community, Taylor said. They have been reported to law enforcement, she said. 

About 300 people are part of the congregation, Taylor said and 100 people were on the call at the time of incident. The church is planning a way to more safely and privately host their services, Taylor said. 

“What we’re more concerned about is that we continue the work of anti-racism because we feel like that is what the church is called to do, and that’s where we are sending our energy,” she said. “While it was really shocking, it doesn’t surprise me, it didn’t surprise us that there is this kind of ugly, in your face overt racism. We are responsible to keep doing what we do with love.”

Zoom’s popularity exploded with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with businesses, schools, institutions and individuals turning to the video-conferencing app to connect with others while in quarantine. 

As the use of the app grew, so have instances of hackers infiltrating sessions, so much so that the termed “Zoombombing” was created. While many of the incidents were initially seen as pranks or trolling, they have since risen to the level of hate speech and harassment, according to the New York Times. 

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