For British Eyes Only
May 27, 2015 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I blog on Wordpress. I'd like to make certain posts visible only to readers in certain countries. Details within.

I'm headed into the Peace Corps. I've been warned that while blogging, I have to be careful about what I say because locals are internet-savvy, and my blog may be read by the people I work with, or people in local government. I'd like to be able to blog about things like, for example, my experiences being gay while serving. But revealing I'm gay to the people I work with is a huge concern because of deep-seated cultural homophobia.

So, is there a way for certain posts on a Wordpress blog to be invisible to IPs registered to certain countries? I own the domain on which I blog, and while I don't pay for the advanced Wordpress tools, I would be willing to. I'm fairly tech-savvy and can follow complex instructions, but generally balk at a command line. I'll have a VPN that will allow me to access my blog from an American server. I realize that I'll be courting the risk of having locals viewing my blog through an American proxy of some kind, but the risk of that seems pretty minimal.

I realize I could also not blog about sensitive issues - which would be fine - or also perhaps make my blog completely invisible to people in my country of service, but I would rather split the difference. What are my options?
posted by Rinku to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It will be far easier for you to just anonymize the content of your blog so as to make it difficult or impossible for anyone to guess your location or identity than it will be to try to tackle this as a technical problem.

e.g. Let's say you come up with a list of IP ranges that represent your continent or country, and you find a way to block them from accessing your blog. Great! Until someone with Feedly or some other third party service finds your stuff.

Or someone has a proxy. Or someone is traveling and finds your blog. Or (on and on and on).

It will just be easier to anonymize the content yourself.
posted by rachelpapers at 1:22 PM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Is internet access generally free and uncensored where you're headed? If you're very worried about this getting out I would be concerned about people who, for reasons unrelated to your blog—whether it's censorship or because they want to use the American version of Netflix, etc.—use a proxy to access the internet as a matter of course.

On preview, I think rachelpapers has the right idea. Anonymizing the content has the added benefit of skirting any possible ethical questions re: writing about people who don't know you're doing it for an audience that doesn't include them. Doctors who blog about their work are very good about anonymizing their "case studies" without losing the thing they wanted to communicate.
posted by Polycarp at 1:26 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's the Internet, and this is 2015. Your options are to not publish, or to publish with the assumption that everyone on earth will read it. There's no in-between.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:33 PM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I am a former PCV.

While I don't have specific advice about IP blocking on individual posts, PC Admin will likely advise strongly that you password protect your blog and only make it accessible to trusted family and friends (or go the email newsletter route). These days I'm unclear whether password protecting is sufficient, but if you have secrets you plan to publish that will compromise your safety and work if known to locals, I would be leery of putting them in blog form.

It is simply not worth the potential problems to keep a publicly available blog while you are serving.

If there is internet access available in your country, do not doubt the savviness of locals to be able to find your blog and identify you through searches. There are a million possible situations where someone you didnt intend to find your blog will find it. Perhaps they did a google search. Or a cache exists somewhere. Or maybe they'll tell their cousin living in America about the american PCV that's working in their town and said cousin decided to do internet searches. Or maybe there is a subculture of using VPNs. You would never ever expect these things to occur, but once they happen and someone is offended (even if undeservedly), your goodwill with locals can be destroyed very quickly. In your case you have the additional concern of personal safety.

The other factor is that even if you use discretion and avoid blogging about what you think are "sensitive" topics, there is a still a strong chance that what you write could be taken out of context or still offend, regardless of how innocent you think the content is. I speak about this from experience - I wrote a few posts and posted pictures of parts of my everyday life as a PCV (avoided politics and sensitive social issues entirely) and had an incident mid service where I found myself having to explain to some offended locals as to why I found the antique soviet washing machine in my apartment worth blogging about, and no, I wasn't trying to portray the country as poor and backwards and stuck in the stone age.

By all means, keep a journal and a diary, but I strongly advise that you don't make it publicly available.
posted by Karaage at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Alright. I'm hearing loud and lear this isn't a great idea. Thanks guys.
posted by Rinku at 1:42 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm an RPCV and if I were in your shoes I'd journal privately and consider publishing after service. If you want something for people at home to follow, pictures are usually pretty safe.

As my Country Director used to say literally every time we saw him, thank you for your service!
posted by chaiminda at 2:47 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Blocking content by country is not and will never be reliable.

For things like this, I have had the notion (and actually have a few posts on my blog) slated to post 5 or 10 years out. Silly, maybe, but for things which are definitely sensitive now, but won't be later, it's kind of nice to be able to "post to the future."

And if your circumstances change you can update the publish date to force them live sooner.
posted by artlung at 2:51 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: There's also the issue of Google and other search engines indexing your blog posts, and the wrangling you'd have to do with robots.txt to try to keep search engines out (which then makes your blog unfindable by the people you do want to read it).
posted by w0mbat at 3:45 PM on May 27, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, maybe do a password protected blog for family and friends and open it up when you're done OR anonymize the hell out of it.
posted by k8t at 6:13 PM on May 27, 2015

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