As you know, challenging the status quo isn’t always easy. The Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Suffrage movement, and so many other iconic examples of advocacy and activism show that there can also be intense backlash. While 99% of the time you will never have to experience safety issues due to exercising your First Amendment rights, we must warn you to take any necessary precautions to minimize the chances.
Nowadays, most safety concerns come from spreading your message on social media. Although all movements experience online trolling, the main threat comes from doxing.
Doxing is the act of posting an individual’s personal information, such address, phone number, social security number, etc., with the intent to cause that individual harm. Even if your information is public record, the act of finding this information elsewhere and then posting it on another platform IS ILLEGAL. Unfortunately, it is a difficult action to prosecute and therefore doxing remains a common tactic of online trolls and harassers.
The purpose of this action is to threaten and scare you into silence, and although there is no way to 100% protect yourself from this possibility, there are a few things you can do when engaging in online advocacy.
- There is nothing wrong with engaging with accounts that disagree in good faith with your opinion or cause or leave annoying yet harmless comments. In fact, it boosts your social media engagement when there is a lot of comment activity. However, if it becomes clear quickly that someone is acting in bad faith. If you have politely answered a question, but the account continues to harass you, becomes aggressive, uses slurs, makes threats, makes up lies about you, smears or twists your responses, threatens you, or starts to ask for personal information, BLOCK AND REPORT THEM IMMEDIATELY.
- Beware of BOTS. Approximately half of the annoying and nasty comments on Twitter and Facebook come from fake accounts; don’t waste a minute of your time. If the account has been around for a while with a lot of followers, typically it is not a bot account.
- Do not engage with anyone who is draining or distracting you from doing your work. You do not owe anyone your time. Your time is VALUABLE, and you don’t need to waste it with complainers and do-nothings online.
- Be comfortable yet careful with the information you share about yourself online. Do a google search and check if there is sensitive information about you out there. Seemingly innocent information can be used against you, such as information found in school newsletters, newspaper articles, and public government records.
- Not everyone wants to be a public figures like Greta Thunberg or David Hogg. If you are concerned about your anonymity, create separate accounts for your online campaign that are not linked to your personal social media accounts, and keep your personal social media accounts set to private.
Here is more information on the topic: https://securitytoday.com/blogs/reaction/2019/06/how-do-i-avoid-getting-doxxed.aspx
Written by YAP Program Director Anna Denisenko
Reviewed by YASV Founder Sophia Arnold