VIRTUAL PICKENS COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD MEETING INTERRUPTED BY OBSCENE TROLLS
Like so many entities, the Pickens County Board of Education has turned to live streaming services to broadcast public meetings, but Thursday’s meeting held on the video conference software Zoom was disturbingly interrupted.
The virtual meeting came to an abrupt end when images of obscene hand gestures, racial slurs and nudity took over the feed.
Officials are not sure who is responsible for the obscenity, but the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and Pickens County District Attorney’s Office are launching an investigation to bring those responsible to justice.
“It’s new technology, so we are kind of playing catch up,” said Sheriff Todd Hall. “We are looking at what type of charges could possibly be placed against the person.”
Hall said rural counties like Pickens face challenges urban areas do not, and getting the meeting set up was an accomplishment in and of itself.
He said it’s a shame something so inappropriate happened, especially during such a challenging time.
“You got professional people out there trying to conduct the business of the board of education and then you have someone that has obviously went to taken some aggressive steps to interfere with that business,” Hall said. “It’s not a joke, and we want to make sure that if at all possible we want to be able to identify this person and hold them accountable for it.”
Word of the incident traveled fast.
“It is a shame and it is sad that these smaller towns try to do large work and what is right and people want to come in and destroy it,” Harold Bozeman said. “It is a sad day on this earth when people only think about evil instead of good. ”
While Pickens County officials are searching for the person responsible for the act, they are also taking security measures to prevent things like this from happening again.
“We are reaching out to partners in the community and also technology professionals that can give us advice on how to proceed and what we need to do,” Hall said. “Everybody in today’s society is very technologically savvy. They need to take the steps to protect themselves.”
Pickens County Superintendent Jamie Chapman told WVUA 23 reporter Chelsea Barton he is searching for another live streaming tool to use for future meetings.
Zoom has been in the news lately for similar incidents across the country. The common denominator? Publicly accessible meetings. The company recommends that instead of posting meeting information online, users set up meetings privately and send invitations to people who request one.