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Fri Jun 5, 2020, 10:15 AM

Barnsley Council refuses to hold virtual meetings over porn hacking fears

There are many issues about how we go about the business of democracy at all levels with Coronavirus disrupting everything. Just as Coronavirus has affected every other business. Virtual meetings are a part of this. Ultimately, legislative bodies will need to bite the bullet and embrace virtual meetings for the forseeable future, and there are more options available than just Zoom.


Fears that hackers showing pornographic material could invade virtual meetings has prevented Barnsley Council re-starting its full calendar of meetings.

Councillors have questioned its chief executive Sarah Norman on how the authority has handled full council meetings. Ms Norman said the platform Zoom had seen "very unpleasant pornographic invasions".

Opposition councillors are calling for the virtual meetings to be reinstated. According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service , independent councillor Jake Lodge and Liberal Democrat group leader Hannah Kitching wrote to Ms Norman requesting the return of meetings of the whole council saying the "democratic process should continue in full".

Ms Norman responded and said Zoom was unsuitable to hold full council meetings. She wrote: "Significant challenges remain with holding meetings with larger numbers of participants and I do not believe Zoom is a suitable medium to use until we can be totally assured that the very unpleasant pornographic invasions that a number have users have experienced have been unequivocally addressed." Ms Norman also claimed in her letter that Microsoft Teams, the council's preferred provider, is unmanageable for large meetings and that they will try to get things running again by September.

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