Novak Djokovic’s Visa Hearing Was a Mess of Memes and Porn

Djokovic’s hearing to allow him to enter Australia unvaccinated was hijacked by the public.
Novak Djokovic playing tennis.
Getty Images 

A virtual hearing with Australia’s Federal Circuit Court to determine whether tennis star Novak Djokovic could keep his visa was interrupted by meme noises, music, and porn clips.

Djokovic is the world’s top tennis player, and the defending champion of the Australian Open. He’s also an anti-vaxxer who is one of a small number of players granted health exemptions to play without being vaccinated against COVID-19 by Tennis Australian and Victoria’s Department of Health, but when he tried to enter Australia last Wednesday, he was detained by the Australian Border Force because he didn’t meet the vaccination requirements for travelers to the country. His visa was cancelled, and he was placed in an immigration detention hotel (This has resulted in a flurry of media attention. Djokovic has been at the hotel for days; political prisoners and refugees have been detained there for months). The hearing was to determine whether he should be allowed free to enter the country. 

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As we’ve seen with other hearings and publicly open meetings, Djokovic’s hearing was hijacked by viewers to play porn. According to Reuters, the debacle was a result of multiple links to the hearing going around, some widely to the public and others to journalists. The court sent a Microsoft Teams link to journalists for the proceedings, and it made its way around social media. That link expired, and the court had replaced it with a different link, which journalists weren’t aware of. The new link, however, crashed because too many people tried to use it. 

Journalist Zac Crellin tweeted a screenshot (which he pixelated) of the hijacked stream: 

“While there's a public broadcast, there's an old teams link that is still working for the Djokovic case and the court official is gone after having trouble with mute all,” journalist Sarah Danckert wrote on Twitter. “We've had techno blasting, giggling, shouting and someone is just saying Nole repeatedly in a pained voice.” Danckert added that eventually, a court official came on to the old, chaos-reigns link, and announced that they wouldn’t be using that link anymore. 

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Four hours into the hearing, the court sent another link to its YouTube channel for members of the public to watch.

Since this occurred in the expired hearing link that the court sent around, and not at the link where the hearing ended up taking place, the court denies that the hearing was affected by these interruptions. “The Court proceedings were—at no time—interrupted by pornography and any reference to this having occurred is wrong,” a spokesman for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia told Motherboard. “Recordings of the hearing are available on the Court’s YouTube site. None of the material—to which you refer—appears.”

Zoom bombing” is the uniquely pandemic-born phenomenon of uninvited viewers hijacking virtual meetings, either through links that were made public by the host, or sloppy login protection (like placing the meeting password on a public website or invitation). With more official systems like courts and school board meetings being held virtually, there have been multiple incidents of “bombing” with explicit content or harassment around the world: in May 2021, someone interrupted a politician's online youth outreach event in Argentina with graphic sexual content. In November, a privacy and security group sued Zoom for, among other things, not doing enough to prevent Zoom bombers. But in the case of the Australian federal courts, sharing around an open Microsoft Teams link isn’t so much an issue with the platform as it is just bad security practice. 

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A spokesperson for the court told Reuters that because of "unprecedented public interest,” the hearing had "expanded beyond the media and subsequently received enormous global public attention.”

"As a result ... problems arose with the streaming services that were provided by a third party supplier," the spokesperson said.

The judge ruled that Novak would be free to enter, but the Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke said that he may personally intervene to cancel his visa again. After the verdict, supporters mobbed his car chanting “Free Novak:” 

Updated Jan. 11, 8:54 a.m. with comment from a spokesman for the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.