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Picture for illustrative purpose. Saint Paulus Lutheran Church in San Francisco has sued Zoom after a hacker allegedly posted images of abuse during a Bible class. Image Credit: iStockphoto

Washington: One of San Francisco’s oldest churches has joined the chorus of complaints that Zooming is not safe - with a lawsuit claiming its Bible study class was “Zoombombed” with pornography.

“The footages were sick and sickening - portraying adults engaging in sex acts with each other and performing sex acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them,” according to the complaint filed Wednesday in federal court.

Immediately after shutting down the virtual class, whose participants were mostly senior citizens, the administrator of Saint Paulus Lutheran Church reached out to Zoom Video Communications Inc. for help, “but Zoom did nothing,” according to the complaint, which was filed as a proposed class action.

“We were deeply upset to hear about this incident, and our hearts go out to those impacted by this horrific event,” Zoom said in a statement. “Words cannot express how strongly we condemn such behaviour. On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to relevant authorities.”

Zoom has seen global usage of its service surge during coronavirus shutdowns, but has come under increasing pressure over vulnerabilities in the app’s software encryption. The company has been sued amid accusations it hid flaws in its app and has seen cases of online trolls sneak in and disrupt web meetings with profanity and pornography.

The company has announced measures to step up security and privacy, including a March blog post aimed at helping users prevent uninvited guests from joining their meetings. Zoom advises users not to broadly share meeting IDs and passwords online.

Saint Paulus said that its May 6 Bible study class was hacked by a “known offender - one who has been reported to the authorities multiple times” - and that its congregants’ computer control buttons were disabled during the attacks.

The church is seeking unspecified damages for privacy violations and a court order barring the company from engaging in negligent business practices.