Valley College students and faculty were left aghast when child pornography appeared in a Zoom session.
By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief
What began as a Zoom meeting for students to discuss their experiences as essential workers turned to horror when video clips of child pornography were shown.
“The moment it appeared on my screen, I was shocked and horrified,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous. “I remember immediately yelling, ‘Oh, my god!’ I tried closing the page but the minimized screen still appeared. I then left the meeting and closed it as fast as I could.”
The incident occurred on April 30 during a public meeting hosted by the Valley College Office of Student Life. Led by the student ambassadors of the office, the meeting began at 3 p.m. Approximately 15 minutes into the meeting, a user began showing video clips that displayed illicit sexual acts with children — one of which was a young girl. The images ran for less than a minute before they were gone. According to Monica Flores, the ASU advisor, the incident is currently under investigation.
“Once I closed it, I just sat here at my computer and put my hands to my face. I could not believe it,” the student recounted. “I needed to keep myself distracted that day because the horrific, atrocious images kept replaying in my head. The part that horrified me the most was the idea that these sort of evil, vile things happen in the world, and that that little girl is still out there.”
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic caused millions of people to stay home to prevent exposure, Zoom has become the default video meeting service for schools and businesses — jumping from 10 million daily participants to 300 million in April, according to CNet. However, the service has faced a litany of issues during that time, one of the most prominent being ‘Zoombombing,’ when uninvited attendees break into and disturb a meeting.
Students and faculty from both California State University, Fresno and Bakersfield College have reported video of child pornography appearing through the service, and one man exposed himself in a Berkeley High School session, causing school officials to suspend all online video classes.
“I don’t think that the problems of Zoombombings are necessarily limited to Zoom,” Valley President Barry Gribbons said. “It’s just incumbent on us to take all [the] steps that we can to make sure that the instructional experience is as positive and effective as possible.”
For anyone who wants to report a crime or suspicious activity, they can anonymously call the Valley Sheriff Station Tip Hotline at (818) 778-5678.
“I am definitely more hesitant to use Zoom now as I would have never thought someone would do something so wicked,” the student said. “I worry that some malicious individual can just hack another public Zoom meeting and do it again. I am still using it for class, but I would not use it for public events until there are some security measures taken.”