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To combat “trolls” Solebury limits virtual meeting access

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Solebury is on troll patrol.

This comes after two township committees — the Farm Committee and the Park and Recreation Board — were targeted by “random internet trolls.”

So as of Feb. 1, the township is limiting access to its Zoom meetings, stating:

“(We) will no longer publish Zoom login information on the open web. Instead, we are asking residents to preregister when they wish to attend a meeting virtually.”

This will be done by sending an email to soleburytownship@soleburytwp.org, stating the name of the committee and date of the Zoom meeting they want to attend virtually.

It will be required to include their name, email address and phone number and the township will reply with the login information. Those without email may call the township at 215-297-5656 and receive the information.

“Unfortunately, a few bad actors have abused the live Zoom connection. While we have been able to block some of these spams...their tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.

“Additional measures are needed to ensure that our virtual meetings are not hijacked by random internet trolls.

“...(We) hope that this additional bit of friction will discourage virtual vandals and give our staff another tool to keep our meetings free from disruptions,” the township stated on its website.

The township “can’t regulate speech” on Zoom, township Manager Chris Garges said. “Web vandals can log on to Zoom meetings and mute people, make noises,” or trash talk, it’s called Zoom bombing, he added.

The township’s new Zoom regulations are “a work in progress,” he said and will be revisited if needed.

The attacks on the two township boards “came on as a big joke” as far as the trolls were concerned, said Supervisor Chairman Mark Baum Baicker, “but we have to pay attention. It’s unbelievable.”

Supervisor Kevin Morrissey, liaison to the Park and Recreation Board, said annoying noises and disruptions occurred at a recent Zoom meeting and when Dudley Rice, Park and Rec. director, tried to mute the noises, they un-muted themselves remotely.

“This is the first time it’s happened that I’m aware of,” Morrissey said. “We have to do something.”


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