Online intruders disrupt Port of South Whidbey meeting

Videos of pornography and Confederate flags were shared on the screens of the new attendees.

FREELAND — Meetings held over conferencing platforms — such as Zoom — might be the preferred way to do business these days, but they are not always fool-proof, as a public meeting held by the Port of South Whidbey demonstrated this week.

About 15 minutes into the Tuesday afternoon meeting, while port leaders were discussing plans for the fairgrounds kitchen, a large number of users joined the online discussion and co-opted it.

Videos of pornography and Confederate flags were shared on the screens of the new attendees, many of whom adopted screen names not suitable for print. In some cases, the attendees unmuted their microphones and spoke, taunting the officials or repeatedly uttering racial slurs.

The port ended the meeting abruptly and agreed to reschedule business for a special session next week, with the goal of strengthening security.

Port Commissioner Curt Gordon said he did not recognize any of the people who disrupted the meeting.

“I have no idea what that was about,” he said. “I would love to know.”

He added that it is unclear how many individuals interrupted the meeting. Hacking may have played a role, but that is also unclear at this time.

It was the first port meeting Gordon remembers being shut down completely, though he recalled several other close calls from over the years.

Online public meetings, he said, have had their advantages and disadvantages.

They have provided accessibility to people who may not normally attend in-person.

But they open the door for anyone in the world to join.

He is hopeful the port will find a way to host meetings where the public can still speak on topics the port is discussing, rather than getting derailed from people uninvolved with the meeting.

“It’s a new world and we still want to be open and transparent and we’re going to pay the price,” he said.

Port Executive Director Stan Reeves said in an email that a group of people took advantage of the fact that the port’s meetings previously enabled people to unmute their microphones and turn on their cameras whenever they wanted.

That will not be the case at future meetings.

“Unfortunately, going forward we will implement greater security measures that will restrict public participation to only those portions of the meeting required by law; everyone will still be able to hear and see the commissioners and staff, but individuals will only have their microphone/video enabled during the ‘public comment’ period of our regular meetings, and then only one person at a time,” Reeves said.

“At all other times they will be muted with their video upload disabled.”

This story was originally published by the South Whidbey Record.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Stenczie Morgan with Maxim Healthcare Services sets up one of the four vaccination stations at the Angel of the Winds Area vaccination site on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County shows signs of losing ground on coronavirus

With cases rising, local leaders urge people to continue to mask up, even as vaccinations increase.

Man died in Mill Creek crash, police investigating cause

It was described as a “near head-on collision.” Another person was also transported to a hospital.

3 light-rail stations, including Northgate, to open Oct. 2

They will be the newest extension of Sound Transit’s Link system, which will eventually reach Snohomish County.

Edmonds grocery store workers may soon earn hazard pay

Some employers are required to increase wages by $4 an hour, the city council voted Tuesday.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Climate change debate hogs spotlight; Inslee demurs on Blake

Here’s what’s happening on Day 89 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Jesse L. Hartman (Everett Police Department)
Fatal shooting suspect on the run, his whereabouts unknown

Jesse Hartman allegedly shot a man during a chase in Everett. Police are asking for help in finding him.

Inslee to announce possible new COVID restrictions Monday

At a news conference Thursday the governor said “we’ve let our guard down to some degree.”

Police: Man shot in head outside Arlington dialysis clinic

He was dead at the scene. No suspects have been arrested. Police are asking for help.

Most Read