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Penn State Police, FBI Investigating 'Zoom-Bombings' Involving Child Pornography

by on May 27, 2020 3:11 PM

Penn State police and the FBI are investigating at least six "Zoom-bombing" incidents involving the display of child pornography during remote meetings and classes at the university over the past several months, police said on Wednesday.

With the pandemic preventing in-person gatherings, businesses, schools and other groups have turned to online video conferencing services such as Zoom to conduct classes and meetings. With that has come increased instances of "Zoom bombing," in which uninvited individuals gain access to a video call with the intention of harassing and disrupting, often in offensive ways.

It also has involved criminal activity, including the display of child sexual abuse material. Since mid-March,  the FBI has received more than 240 reports of incidents in which someone was able to join a Zoom call and broadcast video depicting child sexual abuse.

"Penn State police and the FBI consider this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is re-victimized," a university news release said. "Additionally, anyone who inadvertently sees child sexual abuse material depicted during a virtual event is potentially a victim."

University Police and Public Safety is urging any Penn State employee or student who witnesses the display of child pornography or other criminal activity to contact their campus police station or report it online.

Anyone with information about an individual distributing or producing child sexual abuse material should report it to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or anonymously online at tips.fbi.gov.

Police also offered several tips for helping their efforts to identify individuals responsible for such crimes:

- If you are the administrator or host of a Zoom meeting in which child sexual abuse material was broadcast, contact Penn State police at your campus and the FBI; do not delete or destroy any of your computer logs without further direction.

- If you recorded a Zoom meeting in which child sexual abuse material was broadcast, contact your Penn State campus police station and the FBI for assistance in removing the material from your device.

- If you believe you are a victim of a child sexual abuse material broadcast during a Zoom event, as defined above, contact your Penn State campus police station and the FBI to learn about your victim rights and possible victim assistance.

- If you know who is committing these recent crimes, contact the FBI.

As Zoom-bombing incidents began to rise, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna also pledged in April that his office "will be aggressively prosecuting," such cases.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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