Can I blog safely as a woman if I use my real name?
November 23, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way for me to blog under my real name and still avoid exposing myself to stalking, doxxing, threats, and harassment?

Under my relatively-unique real name, I have built up a somewhat sizeable online audience over the years based on my creative work.

There's a lot of stuff I want to say. Some of it's kind of strongly-worded. I'd like to be able to blog under my real name because I think the folks who like my work would also appreciate what I have to say. Writing anonymously will prevent me from being able to reach the audience I already have. But I've read too many horror stories now about women on the Internet who express their opinions.

Is there anything I can do to safeguard myself? Or is it just a matter of sucking it up and coping with the inevitable?

Do women on the Internet have any options other than either remaining silent, or tempting fate?
posted by MetaFilter World Peace to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know people who've done it. Before you even start, lock EVERYTHING down. Go through all your internet security, all your social media accounts, and delete them or lock them down completely. Institute two-factor authentication on as many accounts as you can.

Find a guide to removing your personal information from sites like Spokeo, and clean all your personally-identifying data off the internet. No phone numbers, no addresses, no resumes.

Then, and only then, start posting using your real name. Keep comments closed. Use email and social media accounts with a pseud so you can function without getting inundated with hate.

This all might sound like overkill, but I've known Anita Sarkeesian for several years, and it's really really not.
posted by suelac at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


If you'd like some private feedback, PM me your currently-private site and I'd be glad to look it over and via PM (or here if you'd prefer.)
posted by smorgasbord at 2:15 PM on November 23, 2015


No. No no no no no. I did that, and had stalker calls in the middle of the night and people following me to work and death and rape threats. No forever.
posted by corb at 2:19 PM on November 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


The DIY Guide to Feminist Cybersecurity
caveat: I have not read the guide, just the article
posted by soelo at 2:27 PM on November 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't answer your question about the specifics re: being a woman who blogs about feminism. However, I do think with covering up your tracks to keep stalkers away may require more work than you realize. For instance, if you have a website, maybe you upgraded to the private registration option and thought no one could use a whois search to get your address. But there are paid services that save the entire domain history, so if your name and address were every associated with the website at any point, it can be traced. Maybe you scrubbed your contact info from data mining websites like Spokeo and MyLife or whatever. But then there are paid services that let you find people based on public records (not online data mining), like mortgages and voter registrations and traffic tickets. I think if you're really serious about it protecting your identity, do your research and then hire a PI or have a savvy friend or two try their best to dig up some dirt on you. I do have access to a couple paid things for work (although we use them for different reasons) if you'd like me to run a simple search on your name for you, just PM me.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:34 PM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Another consideration is if you're a visible minority. If you are, this is a bit more risky than if you're, well, not. This is probably the case even if you're not writing about race/ethnicity-related issues. Any sort of social media activity you have as a visibly non-white woman will in all likelihood come at a greater professional and social cost, and many readers (even the good progressive anti-racist kinds) will have trouble reading your thoughts without being clouded by some sort of descriptive bias. Just something to think about.
posted by blerghamot at 2:35 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Answers to this recent question may be helpful.
posted by Cheese Monster at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd also spring for fraud alert or simply freezing new accounts on your credit reports.
posted by tilde at 3:31 PM on November 23, 2015


Let me clarify something also. They look up not only you, but everyone they think might be related to you. They will think nothing - nothing! Of finding and harassing your grandmother or cousins or children or nieces. They may actually be the devil.
posted by corb at 3:59 PM on November 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I have blogged on the internet under my real name with both my address and telephone number on my website and while I wouldn't say I've had no issues they've not ever crossed into in-person stalking or following. My tolerance for online harassment is high and YMMV.

Writing about abortion I got a slew of hate mail and threats and comments. And not long ago, someone put a highly complimentary review with my name and telephone number on a site for escorts, which led to some very confused late-night phone conversations before I figured out what was going on. This was resolved by referring callers to the number of someone who provided the kind of services these callers were seeking, which was not web design.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:46 PM on November 23, 2015


Worrying about people stirring shit for my completely innocent and unsuspecting family is what makes me remain anonymous in my work. It's really unfortunate, but corb's point cannot be understated. Even if I scrub my own information as best as I can, my family will never keep the same level of caution and it would be very very bad if someone was very determined to make our lives hell.
posted by erratic meatsack at 6:03 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are a few articles around about people using social engineering to hack GoDaddy/Apple/Amazon/Twitter accounts. These may be helpful re: locking down accounts. As well, there are a few websites that show you which sites offer two-factor authentication.

I've been happy with Namecheap & WhoisGuard as a host.
posted by Nyx at 6:41 PM on November 23, 2015


A popular target for connecting details for doxxing purposes is, sadly, funeral/memorial notices.
Has anyone ever died who was close enough to you that you or any of your family members might have been listed?
Keep an eye out for that.
posted by CrystalDave at 8:11 PM on November 23, 2015


Isn't it possible for you to let those who already follow you/know you under your own name just be made aware of your new blogging name? You could then, therefore, start from scratch - but not really. Your friends/present contacts would know who you are, but they wouldn't have to refer to you by name on a new site for blogging.
posted by itsflyable at 8:53 PM on November 23, 2015


I blog and Tweet under my real name about video games, a somewhat scary subject as of late. (I dabble in professional freelance writing so using my real name was a career decision.) While I don't go looking for trouble, I also don't hide my social justice beliefs. In the last 5 years or so I've had some unpleasant emails and comments but never anything that felt dangerous.

That's just my singular experience, though! Definitely lock everything up with 2-factor authentication. Seriously, everything: email accounts, domain / web host providers, social media accounts, and whichever blog CMS you go with.
posted by jess at 9:56 PM on November 23, 2015


I blogged under my real name for years and the worst thing that happened was endless friend requests from complete strangers on Facebook. My blog was about my work (as an ambulance dispatcher) though, I imagine it could be very different if I was writing about something a bit more contentious or personal.
posted by intensitymultiply at 12:10 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Zen and the art of making tech work for you
'This manual is a community-built resource for our growing community of women and trans* activists, human rights defenders and technologists. It is designed to be a living, growing collection of practical guidance and information that uniquely speaks to our needs, experiences, and activism, both online and offline.'
posted by abhardcastle at 9:33 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Another consideration is if you're a visible minority. If you are, this is a bit more risky than if you're, well, not. This is probably the case even if you're not writing about race/ethnicity-related issues. Any sort of social media activity you have as a visibly non-white woman will in all likelihood come at a greater professional and social cost, and many readers (even the good progressive anti-racist kinds) will have trouble reading your thoughts without being clouded by some sort of descriptive bias. Just something to think about."

While this may not be totally relevant to the original OP's situation, I really want to thank @blerghamot this post above for my own well-being:

I'm having a hard time grasping my own public image as of recent as I've been stalked/harassed by both women and men for just opening my mouth and saying -anything- on certain social media sites. And like you, I still value having an online presence and a voice. But I'm at the bottom of the food-chain when it comes to all minorities and biases - an Asian-American, female dwarf (Little Person) and somehow when anyone gets a hold of that (especially the Little Person part), it just starts the whole slew of invalidating, trumping over (women), or sexualizing (men) what I say or do.

So... Thank you. Just can't believe finally someone else validated that still being white in America (doesn't even matter wherever, really) even online, really does have its privileges.
posted by sam3cat at 7:37 AM on June 10, 2016


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