Much like the bulk of events taking place around the world right now, people knew that Pride rallies and gatherings were going to look radically different this year due to the coronavirus. For TikTok LGBTQ users, however, things took a darker turn when the company's Pride event on Zoom was hijacked by trolls. According to an official apology issued by TikTok on Twitter, "some bad actors" Zoombombed the Pride event with homophobic and racial slurs. Business Insider confirmed the incident, which has left many LGBTQ TikTok users aghast and disappointed.
Zoombombing, which has been taking place ever since COVID-19 flipped world communications upside down, is when trolls hack a private Zoom call and flood the chat and video with upsetting and frequently racist as well as sexist rhetoric. The phenomenon has affected classrooms, work meetings, even private counseling sessions for recovering patients, and more. But while trolls are part and parcel of being online, it seems as if TikTok failed to ensure the most basic of steps when it comes to a Pride event like this: precautionary privacy locks to keep "some bad actors" out.
TikTok's poor excuse — "[Thursday's] #MyPride event was meant to be a celebration of our community and of authenticity, self-love, and inclusivity," TikTok announced on Twitter on June 25. "Unfortunately, some bad actors — who were not invited to the Zoom event — interrupted the start of the celebratory event with extremely hurtful, harmful comments."
"We want to express our heartfelt apologies to those who took the time to join this special community event before it was sabotaged," the short video company added. "This inappropriate incident in no way reflects our support for you and should have no reflection on the spirit and uplifting nature of Pride."
Distorted audio, homophobic and racial slurs — According to Business Insider, which spoke with LGBTQ TikTok users, the company reportedly left confused and understandably upset users in the dark about what the next steps would be after being Zoombombed. The event was yanked offline just five minutes after going live. Trolls had flooded the chat with "Straight Pride" and "GayNotOkay" comments as well as support for Donald Trump. In one instance, according to Business Insider, trolls Zoombombed the event with a loud and distorted recording of racial slurs.
Dual dismay — What's unmistakably clear is that while users were disgusted by the Zoombombing issue — a security failure that the video conferencing company continues to exhibit for millions around the world — TikTok's very own platform behavior toward LGBTQ content is troubling. Some users worry that TikTok shadowbans content related to gay, transgender, gender-fluid, and other identity groups.
With the Zoombombed Pride event, TikTok and Zoom continue to prove that their grasp over the most simple and straightforward security measures is paltry — at the precious expense of their users. None of this seems shocking though when you consider the company's previous track record of responding to a user's livestreamed suicide, protecting children's privacy, or suppression of political speech. The company has a long and hard way to go before it can confidently call itself a safe and fun place for its community.