Virtual council meeting in Somerset is disrupted as anonymous members of the public log on using adult-themed usernames and play PORN in the background
- South Somerset District Council is holding meetings on Zoom due to Covid-19
- Members of the public logged onto the meeting, though some began trolling
- Officials noticed some of the public were using found and abusive language
- Others were alleged to have been playing pornography in the background
A council meeting held using video call technology was nearly suspended after it was trolled with obscene adult content.
South Somerset District Council has begun to hold virtual meetings via Zoom video calling to allow councillors to make decisions on urgent matters (including planning applications) until public meetings can resume after the coronavirus lockdown.
The council’s area south committee met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss road improvements being made as part of plans for 800 homes in southern Yeovil.
South Somerset District Council has begun to hold virtual meetings via Zoom video calling to allow councillors to make decisions on urgent matters (including planning applications) until public meetings can resume after the coronavirus lockdown
But the meeting almost had to be suspended early on after a number of individuals disrupted proceedings with rude words and images.
Several users dialled in with adult-themed nicknames – including ‘Ben Dover’ – with swear words being directed at a member of council staff.
On at least one occasion, adult content could be heard playing in the background while members of the public’s microphones were on (they were subsequently muted en masse).
And one user shared an image of two men kissing in the middle of a presentation of improvements planned for one of Yeovil’s roundabouts.
Councillor Peter Seib also claimed he had been forced to remove one user from the call after they posed as Councillor David Gubbins, the ward member for Yeovil Westlands.
Councillor Peter Gubbins, who chairs the committee, said that if this kind of conduct continued he would exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and ‘take this up with the police’.
By the end of the meeting, however, he said he was optimistic about more virtual meetings being held in the future, to ensure members of the public who could not travel to Yeovil were involved.
He said: ‘When you see how many hecklers we’ve had – I’d call them something else, but hecklers for now – it’s clear word has got around about this debate.
‘If we can get this right and perfect, I think this is the way forward with meetings. It gives the public more opportunity to hear the debate.’
Mr Seib added: ‘There are currently 47 people in this meeting. That’s a pretty good attendance for area south.’
Councillor Dave Recardo, the committee’s vice-chairman, requested that one of the council’s IT specialists be on hand at all future meetings to prevent future trolling.
Mr Recardo said: ‘Today’s interferences from the public have been unwelcome and I don’t want to see it again.’
The council’s area west committee will meet using the same technology on April 15 at 5:30pm.