Below is a list of miscellaneous tips and considerations that writers and journalists may want to take into account when preparing for online abuse.
Using a Pseudonym
For some writers, tying one’s name to one’s good work is of the utmost importance, especially for writers working to upend an oppressive status quo or expand opportunities for members of their group in a certain literary space.
But depending on your online experiences and how established you are as a writer, you may wish to consider adopting a pen name to use when publishing content that could subject you to severe online harassment or doxing. This is usually a more viable option for early career writers, but for anyone pursuing a writing life on the side—especially those who write about highly charged political and social issues—a pseudonym can be a good option.
It can be difficult and exhausting to assume multiple online identities, so it’s worth taking the following questions into account when deciding whether or not to adopt a pseudonym:
- How important is it to you to attach your real name to your work? Do you need to use your real name so that you can be contacted by potential editors and publishers?
- Are you willing to put the effort into maintaining multiple identities online? (This could include maintaining separate email addresses and social media identities, securely saving multiple sets of login information, and attaching different pseudonyms to the different subjects you cover in your writing.)
Whether or not to use a pen name is a highly personal decision. It will not be the right choice for every writer, but when it comes to your safety and security, a pseudonym can help protect you from more severe forms of online harassment.
Encrypting Your Data and Devices
In layman’s terms, encryption scrambles and transforms your data so that it can’t be read by prying eyes. It helps to keep your documents, emails, photos, and search queries private. Full-disk encryption (FDE) can protect your data in the event that your laptop is lost or stolen. Learn more about FDE, including a helpful Buyer’s Guide, at TechTarget.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) also offer a valuable form of encryption. VPN technology allows you to connect to a server via an encrypted connection. All data that is transferred between your personal computer and a VPN server is scrambled so that no one else can read it. To learn more, visit Stay Safe Online.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation also supports a variety of encryption tools for journalists concerned with protecting digital communications. Check out their Journalist Guide for more information.
Covering Your Cameras
When it comes to keeping in touch or working remotely, built-in camera technology is a game changer. But cameras can also be hacked and accessed remotely, which is why it’s a good idea to cover your camera when it’s not in use. (Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg covers his laptop camera.) Consider using a sticker or Post-it note that can be easily removed if you use your camera frequently.
Texting and Messaging Protection
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Secure Messaging Guide offers a road map for what apps are best for messaging securely if you’re concerned that your online messages or emails could be hacked.
Protecting Your Cell Phone
Consider setting up a PIN on your cell phone account so that nobody can hijack your number without the PIN.