Writing Discussion

Writers Guide to Online Safety

The internet can be… challenging. The scary part is that anyone with an opinion can become a target for harassment. In light of the organized campaigns that keep happening, here is a list of bare basic safety tips. This list is not extensive, and it’s not guarantee of protection, but it’s a start.

Passwords

  • Change your passwords a few times a year. Put in a calendar reminder if you tend to forget.
  • Use a complicated password. Tip: It’s difficult for a brute force password generator to predict a grammatically correct sentence, or even poetry. For example, TheMoonIsBlueAndSoAmI (with some symbols and numbers as required)
  • Use two factor authentication on EVERYTHING that allows it.
  • Always log off your accounts if you use a public computer.
  • Don’t save your passwords on the cloud.

Filter Your Social Media 

  • Turn off your location in every social media tool that posts it. Never post where you are when you are actually there. Never post that you’re home alone, or how long you’ll be away on a vacation, or when you’re coming back.
  • Do not list your employer or make it easy for someone to get in touch with people in your non-writing life. You don’t want strangers contacting your employer about things you’ve tweeted.
  • When it comes to sharing pictures of family or children, be mindful of privacy. Only post pictures of others with permission. Also consider that you may want to also protect your family from becoming an additional target or fodder for harassment.
  • Block anyone anonymous from contacting you. There are various levels of security on Twitter. The options available are not perfect, but do use those security settings – new accounts, unconfirmed emails, only let your mutuals DM you etc. Block Together is another tool, and you can subscribe to other people’s block lists which can be handy, but not perfect. On Instagram you can mute any comments with certain key words in them.

Secure Your WordPress / Website

  • If you use self-hosted WordPress, security plugins are important (speaking as someone who has been hacked before). My favorite free plugins are: Wordfence, Jetpack, Askimet, and Loginizer. Here are some more options.
  • If you use self-hosted WordPress, make sure your wp-config.php is secured  in some way or another.
  • Do not list your phone number unless it is a business number.
  • Use a contact form instead of listing an email address on your website if possible. Not only will this cut back on junk mail,  but some plugins have spam protection and more advanced plugins might allow you to move comments with certain key words directly to trash so you don’t have to see them. You also can block repeat offenders by their IP address.
  • Use a separate email address for your website administration, contact form, and personal accounts. It’s also a good idea to have a dedicated writing email address for writing business purposes only (querying, story submissions, corresponding with your agent). It’s good to be able to deal with only what you have the spoons for in one day, and if it’s all separate, it can be easier – you won’t miss the important stuff, and you can ignore the flaming trash fire until you have the time to deal with it.

Remove Your Personal Information from the Internet

  • If you own a web domain, check your WHOIS data. All domains are required to provide an address and contact information. Your domain provider may provide anonymizing services so that your personal information is not available to everyone for a small fee.
  • Remove yourself from all public records look ups if possible: Here’s a list of sites to opt out of. Check the security/privacy pages of those sites for an opt-out.
  • It’s a good idea to do an internet search using your name and phone number, and see if they appear anywhere they shouldn’t.
  • Some professional day job occupations make it a good idea to use a pen name to keep your writer’s life separate. It’s not the answer for everyone, but it’s something to consider.

What to do if Someone You Know is Being Harassed

  • Send encouragement / kind words /love to counteract the nastiness. Listen if they need to vent or need a shoulder.
  • Report and block on behalf of the other person.
  • If you are someone with privilege or power in a situation, and the person being harassed is not, say something if it is safe to do so (but untag the person first. They don’t need to be looped into further arguments). For example, men please call out men they’re being inappropriate towards women (in real life too). A show of solidarity is one of the most effective ways to signal that the behavior is unacceptable and that there are social consequences for behaving badly.

Here’s a good link that covers some of these same points + more.

If you add any additional tips in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list here.

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