Fight the power... but protect ya neck
Day 8 after the election I woke up to an email from a friend saying we'd had our mourning time, that now we must stand up and move forward; act. So I did...which for me always has to start with walking the dog.
On that walk I started thinking about this concept of a Muslim registry. I started thinking about the Trump cabinet appointees: every new announcement a fresh insult to [fill in the blank with whatever issue you care about]. And I decided that I wanted to fight back in whatever funny, hurtful, provocative way I could.
So I made something. Something satirical. Something fierce but, ultimately, benign: I made a National Registry of White Men. It was a Google doc pasted into a Tumblr. Ya know, kid stuff. I registered Donald Trump and tweeted at him to tell him so. I did the same to Bannon, Sessions, McConnell, the Trump Jrs, etc... At 4:00pm that Thursday afternoon I posted the project to my Facebook in order to collect some 'data' for it.
At 5:30pm a friend asked me to make the post public so she could share it. Not thinking, I obliged. 24 hours later I was being personally insulted by random strangers while simultaneously being contacted by reporters. Funny: a disproportionately large number of my Facebook messages were from people with Russian sounding names...
By the time I woke up at 8:00am on Saturday the death and doxxing threats had started to roll in. The twitter Nazis and Klansmen were getting @me. A friend said I was being discussed on 4chan, so I went and checked it out. I would not describe what I found as 'kind'. Too bad I had a full work day and no time to manage the security settings on all my social media accounts, nor to scour the net for all the places where info on me and my whereabouts could be located.
That night as I scrambled to remember the logins for my five different web host providers the anonymous text messages with my home address started coming in. I don't scare easily, but I would be lying if I said my heart rate didn't increase exponentially every time I got a new ding on my phone. That went on for weeks.
I was caught with my pants down, and had poked the hornets nest known as the alt-right. Oops. Now sure, I brought this on myself. Any reporter or activist will tell you this is par for the course. But did the women of Gamergate expect this? Did Arrington de Dionyso? No, and you won't either.
In the 21st century we fight 21st century wars. The DC fuccbois, (as I'm now calling them) have drones, voter supression, water cannons, surveillance, debt. The angry lone mercenaries out there in Walking Dead Amerikkka have the internet, doxxing, malware, and (failing those) semi-automatic weapons. Our online presences leave us vulnerable to both parties, to say nothing of your run of the mill stalkers and angry exes. And I'm here to tell you the media is not on your side. They'll publish where you go to high school after you get blocked on twitter by Donald Trump. After all, they must tell your story, and your whereabouts are simply all the news that's fit to print.
If you're anything like me your digital footprint is yuge and can't be cleaned up in a day...or even ten...kinda like an oil spill. So that's why I am urging you: #resist, but protect ya neck first. And proceed with caution.
My Completely Non-Exhaustive List of Net Security Resources
Note: This is a big job and it's never finished. Do what you can, do a little every day, make better choices about where and with whom you share personal information. Use the guides here to figure out what your biggest threats and vulnerabilities are and start there. And remember the old online adage: if you're not paying for it... you're probably the product.
How-To's and Further Reading
- Martin Shelton's "Securing your Digital Life Like a Normal Person"
- Martin Shelton's Medium blog, in general
- Access Now's 'First Look at Online Security'
- EFF's Security Starter Pack
- Crash Override's Interactive LockDown Tool
- Mozilla's Data Detox Kit
- A DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity
Daily Tools, Apps, Plugins, etc...
- Tor Browser for your computers, use Firefox on your phone
- Password Managers
- VPNS: Cloak, Vypr
- Privacy Badger
In Case of Emergency
Candace Thompson is a performer and interdisciplinary media maker who has always been fascinated with the feedback loops generated by place, culture, identity, gender, race, climate, politics, and simple human interaction. She makes films, web projects, music, and ritualistic installations– both IRL and online—that examine and challenge the truths we purportedly hold to be self-evident. Perhaps they aren’t so self-evident after all. Check out her most recent project The National Registry of White Males at allwhitemen.com.