When video calls go wrong: Cat filters, potato bosses and chaotic town meetings

PA Reporters
·4-min read

The coronavirus pandemic has forced lawyers, councillors and others to use video conferencing software to negotiate meetings during the pandemic, but things do not always go to plan.

Over 11 months of lockdowns and reduced contact, these are some of the most viral video conferencing moments of the pandemic… so far.

– Boss spends online meeting as a potato after triggering camera filter

With companies across the world getting to grips with working from home in March, one boss accidentally spent a virtual meeting as a potato.

Political director Lizet Ocampo was leading an online meeting with her team at People for the American Way, in Washington DC, when she accidentally triggered one of the camera’s filters.

When she was unable to figure out how to turn it off she had to spend the rest of the meeting as a potato.

Colleague Rachele Clegg told the PA news agency: “We started our weekly Monday meeting and decided we all needed some human interaction and one by one, turned on our cameras.

“We laughed for a good 10 minutes straight.”

– ‘Rocco, put your tail down’, MP tells cat making parliamentary Zoom appearance

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee was meeting virtually in July when Rocco the cat made an impromptu appearance.

SNP MP John Nicolson was speaking with Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive of ITV, about the future of public service broadcasting after the pandemic.

He was asking why subtitles were not put on children’s TV by default as it was proven to increase literacy, when an orange tail appeared on screen.

Despite initially trying to ignore it, the MP eventually batted it out of the way, saying: “Rocco, put your tail down.”

– Peer’s ‘floating head’ appearance evokes memories of Red Dwarf and Queen

Earlier in 2021 a Conservative politician appeared to have a floating head as she made a virtual contribution to the House of Lords.

Baroness Buscombe’s black backdrop and apparent black clothing created the optical illusion on the television feed shown in the chamber.

Users on Twitter reacted by comparing Lady Buscombe’s appearance to Holly, the onboard computer in hit comedy Red Dwarf, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody music video.

Lady Buscombe was discussing the need to prioritise vaccines for “clinically extremely vulnerable” patients who are shielding and aged under 70.

– ‘Chaotic’ town council meeting

A December meeting of Handforth Parish Council which descended into chaos — with councillors trading insults and ultimately getting booted off the Zoom call — became an unlikely internet sensation after clips were uploaded to Twitter in February.

Meeting clerk Jackie Weaver, from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, removed chairman Brian Tolver from the Zoom call and placed him in a virtual waiting room after he told her “you have no authority here”.

Following Mr Tolver’s eviction, vice-chairman Aled Brewerton proceeded to yell at Ms Weaver to “read the standing orders”.

Mr Brewerton and another councillor, Barry Burkill, were also removed from the meeting, and those who remained voted to not allow the three men back in.

– ‘I’m not a cat’: Lawyer with accidental kitten filter

Last but not least, a lawyer in Texas went viral on Tuesday after accidentally activating a kitten filter during virtual court proceedings.

Footage of the incident on Tuesday showed lawyer Rod Ponton struggling to remove the filter, while Judge Roy Ferguson attempted to help him.

Mr Ponton could be heard saying: “I don’t know how to remove it… but I’m prepared to go forward with it. I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”

Judge Ferguson said he had seen several Zoom mishaps since beginning virtual proceedings at the beginning of the pandemic, including some “colourful celebrations” from people in court.

He highlighted that what happened was a “simple mistake that could happen to any one of us” and he did not want people to “poke fun” at the lawyer for the mishap.