Color Of Change
For Immediate Release: April 10, 2020
Media Contact: Michelle Morris, firstname.lastname@example.org, 408.215.8405
Color Of Change leads sign-on letter from group of Zoom’s clients, calling on company to hire Chief Diversity Officer, among other demands
Meeting will address a petition started by Color Of Change member Dr. Dennis Johnson to address the remote conferencing company’s failure to protect Black users from cyber attacks
NATIONWIDE — As instances of racist and violent cyber attacks overwhelm Zoom’s video conferencing services and public image, Color Of Change announced today that it will meet with company executives. On behalf of its 1.7 million members, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization will meet with Lynn Haaland, Zoom’s Global Risk and Compliance Officer, to discuss their demand for a racial harassment policy to protect Black users and other vulnerable groups using the service. Advocacy organizations that are clients of Zoom are signing on to a letter from Color Of Change, sent Thursday, calling on the company to adopt the racial justice organization’s demands.
As work, education, and social gatherings have moved online in response to the spread of COVID-19, reliance on Zoom, a remote video conferencing software, has grown exponentially — as have security and privacy threats now characterized by #Zoombombing. Color Of Change, which advocates for a more human and less hostile world for Black Americans, has put Zoom in the spotlight for its failure to specifically address these anti-Black attacks.
“Meditation and yoga classes, social meetings, and even Bible studies held by Black users have been disrupted by coordinated cyber attacks on Zoom,” said Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change. “These are not random incidents but an organized effort by thousands of white supremacists to terrorize Black people online. The responsibility to protect Black people from these attacks lies with Zoom, not individual users or victims of the attacks. Our hope is that Zoom comes to our meeting prepared to acknowledge and address the urgent steps required to defeat hate on the platform, and to work with us to create a concrete plan that keeps Black users safe.”
Heading into the meeting, Color Of Change is demanding Zoom create the position of Chief Diversity Officer, and implement default end-to-end encryption for video, audio, and text chat. In addition to calling for Zoom to issue a formal apology to victims of “Zoombombing,” Color Of Change wants the company to require all users to affirm a community commitment to keep the platform a safe space for all users, regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age.
Zoom’s response to attacks on Black users and users from vulnerable groups has indicated a glaring absence of attention to anti-harassment policies. The company initially tried to downplay the harassment, putting the onus on impacted users and referring to its guide on “party crashers” — rather than address that its own security failures led to the cyber attacks. Zoom has since changed the name of its guide, following a petition on Color Of Change’s member platform, Organize For. However, a structural corporate strategy to combat racist harassment has yet to materialize.
“A moment I had worked my whole life for turned into a nightmare because Zoom didn’t prioritize my security,” said Dr. Dennis Johnson, a Color Of Change member, who was one of the first users to speak out publicly after being targeted by organized droves of racist trolls during his Ed.D dissertation. “I want Zoom to know that my experience wasn’t an outlier, but part of a broader pattern of racist and misogynist hate Black users experience on Zoom. That’s why I’m joining with Color Of Change to press Zoom for not only an apology but also a course-correction so Black users will be protected moving forward.”
The growth of fake Zoom domains presents a troubling security challenge — research from cybersecurity firm Check Point found an increase of 1700 fake domains in just the first three months of 2020 — because users can be tricked into entering their account credentials. The problems began well before the COVID-19 epidemic spread globally and moved meetings and gatherings online: even in January, weak authentication made it possible for hackers to join chats.
Color Of Change’s campaign received additional momentum as advocacy organizations added their name in support of the key demands. Groups that have signed on include Asian Americans Advancing Justice; Carbo Strategic Consulting; Coworker.org; Fix Democracy First; Free Press; Fight for the Future; Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda; Indivisible Kansas City; Media Democracy Fund; MediaJustice; Media Matters for America; MomsRising; Muslim Advocates; National Hispanic Media Coalition; National LGBTQ Task Force; Open MIC; Progressive Turnout Project; ;Public Knowledge; ReThink Media; Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Wellspring Philanthropic Fund; and WITNESS.
Color Of Change has a long history of winning accountability on civil rights and racial justice policies from leading technology companies. The group has pushed Facebook to make its civil rights audit publicly available, drawn attention to Twitter, Google, and Facebook for the misinformation on their platforms, and succeeded in getting payment services to stop processing funding for white supremacists. Most recently, Color Of Change pressured major wedding planning platforms to stop promoting the romantic depictions of former slave plantations.