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Pranksters hijack online learning streams with porn, obscene language

This act of dropping in to disrupt virtual classrooms is known as “Zoom bombing”, a trend the FBI says is happening all across the country.

CERES, Calif. — As schools shift to online learning, some people are taking class disruptions to a new low.

After playing a few moans and groans, an unknown prankster was quickly booted from an El Dorado County high school’s classroom Zoom call. In a video recorded in late August and sent to ABC10 by a parent, a teacher can be heard warning students: "If he's your friend, tell him I can find out who he is because they taught us how to do that."

And in Ceres, Calif., police confirm they're investigating multiple instances of video-teleconference hacking at area schools with no leads on what person or persons could be behind it.

"Last week, it happened to two of her classes, so they didn't learn anything," said Jess Ramirez, whose child attended Ceres High School.

Ramirez says her 14-year-old daughter's account was hijacked along with five other students, and a male's voice infiltrated her virtual classroom with obscene language and pornographic pictures.

"It scares me because I’m like, what kind of education is she going to have?" Ramirez said.

This act of dropping in to disrupt virtual classrooms is known as “Zoom bombing”, a trend the FBI says is happening all across the country. While some think it's funny, U.S. attorneys in Pennsylvania and Michigan have warned it can be charged as a state or federal computer crime.

In the first few months of 2020, the FBI received nearly 200 reports of child abuse footage being broadcast on Zoom.

Ramirez says this gives her anxiety.

"I actually want my daughter to return to school,” Ramirez said. “I told her, you are not allowed to show your face because I don't know who's watching you."

A Zoom spokesperson addressed wide criticism the company has faced throughout 2020:

"We have been deeply upset to hear about these types of incidents and Zoom strongly condemns such behavior."

They say Zoom has added a host of default security features for educators, such as enabling waiting rooms, passwords, and only allowing teachers to share their screen. The company spokesperson added, “We take meeting disruptions extremely seriously and where appropriate, we work closely with law enforcement authorities. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind to Zoom and law enforcement authorities so the appropriate action can be taken against offenders."

ABC10 spoke to several parents who said educators need proactive training. We reached out to Ceres Unified for comment and did not hear back.

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