LFI.3 week 13 and 14 discussion: privacy tools for protests, anti-doxxing strategies

One of the things we talked about this week is how privacy tools are never a “one size fits all”, and how a lot of it is an art, not a science. I’m wondering what thoughts people have about the strategics and tools that I shared today. Which have you tried? Which have worked for you? What do you have more questions about? What are you seeing people doing right and doing wrong right now?

Edit: let’s also talk about the anti-doxxing strategies in this thread, since there’s a lot of overlap.

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Really bummed I had to bounce early; it was just one of those days. Will watch the rest soon!

This is a handy tool that just popped up on my radar. You can use it to scrub metadata from photos and then blur/draw on them to remove people’s faces/identifying features:

I’m a huge fan of Signal. For an example, last night, we had two threads going with our group - one of folks on the ground, one of the comms folks who kept an eye on things from afar (and a liaison that sent updates from comms to the on-the-ground crew). We set the disappearing message timer to one day, and we left and deleted the threads as soon as we were no longer participating. It worked well and it made me feel better about not feeling willing to be physically present; I was still able to help with information from afar.

Something we’ve been talking about over on the #librev messageboard is how to help spot events that might be right-wing traps. There was some back-and-forth over the Boston protest last night because the group that organized it just appeared suddenly and listed affiliates that didn’t confirm their involvement. We talked about how to communicate with people involved directly instead of second-hand and trying to use language more intentionally in our efforts to get more info. It was a remarkable moment of “hey, our usual methods of doing things might cause problems, how can we rethink how we approach these situations”–reminding me of @alison’s reply on last week’s (?) thread about normalizing actions other than just calling the police.

Some handy articles in popular press to use in reference inquiries:

How to Protest Safely in the Age of Surveillance, Wired, May 31, 2020

Police can track protesters even after the demonstrations end, Marketplace, June 2, 2020


Since we met I am seeing more and more people sharing information on using privacy tools to protest so I am glad to see that concern and action being more normalized as the people sharing were not necessarily on my radar as people who have expressed concerns about this before. More people are asking me about things like Signal and seem to be more aware of the need to think more carefully- those who accused me of having a tin-foil cap are suddenly realizing that perhaps I was on to something in warning them about things and suggesting alternatives :slight_smile: I look forward to exploring more of the tools we talked about for scrubbing metadata and blurring faces. Recent news articles of protestors being arrested after the protest really illustrate the importance of the location tracking and tools we discussed.

We’ve been dealing with some of this here too. It’s actually been a way that local far right people are exposing themselves for the folks that like to keep track of them.

In general this week’s topic had me thinking a lot about the teen librarians out there, as this has so many young people out and so many not hiding their faces. In my area, the greatest risk for them is getting harassed by right wing people who can target their inexperience and who are potentially connected to their teachers and families. Are there ways to incorporate education about hiding faces into other teen programming? Or ways that teen librarians can help curate the flood of educational content? Can this dovetail with the efforts we already make to protect teens’ intellectual freedom and privacy?

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The number one thing I see people doing wrong is posting photos of themselves at protests on the same public social media accounts where they post a ton of other personally identifying details. I’ve seen pictures on Twitter of people standing next to their car- license plate in full view! Now anyone who wants to harm that person knows their name, home state, plate number, and the make/model/color of their car. A glance through their account will give you a good idea of where they go and when.

I think this pairs with a lack of care in determining who can see your social media posts. What is the point of making your account private if you don’t have any criteria for who you follow, or add as a friend? If you have 1200 Facebook friends, do you really know and trust all of these people enough not to care how much they know about you? What if that guy you went to high school with 15 years ago is a white supremacist now? Would you know?

Side note: the book “The Chain” by Adrian McKinty takes this concept and makes it a central plot point for an absolutely terrifying thriller. Highly recommend.

Super good Signal hygiene! I am impressed that you all did this. It’s very hard to get people to take these steps.

This is a great strategy and it applies not just to right-wing traps, but coordinated counterinsurgency tactics by police (where they work with astroturf activists to take over protests and weaken the demands – we saw this happen in a lot of cities with the Saturday protests).

I feel like we’re about to see a cascade of this.

I’d love to get thoughts from the teen librarians like @Maty_C and @showell on this. I worry not just about the right wing targeting them, but the police targeting them.

This relates to a lot of our discussion from this week on doxxing. So many people I know who’ve been doxxed had it happen because of something like this, where they just had never considered how their online practices might open them up to risk. I’m not victim blaming, just noting how this happens. This is why when we share data hygiene/security practices, we probably want to be sharing examples of how people are getting targeted too.


So this is only tangentially related, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few days.

People who are active on library Twitter probably saw the doxxing/calling out of an anonymous account called Drunkest Librarian, who previously went by Satan Librarian. He sounds like grade-A garbage, as he harassed and manipulated untold numbers of women on Twitter with a particular emphasis on POC and people with disabilities. It’s led to a lot of conversation around whether or not it’s “okay” to use an anonymous stick figure as your profile and not use your real name as a part of the “community.”

While I completely understand that Drunkest Librarian’s anonymity contributed to his ability to abuse, I’m not so sure I agree with the call to have everyone use their real name and real face on social media. I feel like it creates different kinds of vulnerabilities for different people–i.e., the accounts speaking truth to power run by people who know their trustees or deans are lurking and all too ready to pounce.

DL is also an interesting case in point with doxxing, since people were broadcasting his name in no time and there was a tweet out there about knowing what he looks like, his phone number, his wife’s name, etc. So some of the anonymity there was performative, or at least he wasn’t thinking he could be vulnerable because of how he was abusing his power (so the risks he was taking didn’t really mean much in his mind).

Anyway, sorry to bring this douchebag up in here. I just wanted to know what people think about the anonymity of online accounts! Something I have done a few times is change my name and bio/links on platforms to “hide” a bit when something I’ve said that could get me in trouble starts to blow up, but I’m not sure how effective that is. I think it’s probably time to start setting up my tweets to delete, but I feel weirdly possessive of them. :no_mouth:

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Wow it’s amazing how quickly people come to conclusions like this!!! Can they not see who would be most impacted by this?

Also feeling good about my instincts since I always thought that guy was annoying and dumb and had him muted since ages ago.

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I was surprised and disappointed to see such a call for everyone to use their real name and face on social media. I am guessing those calls come from people who are less likely to experience harassment based on their names and faces. It is a huge disservice to those speaking up and out without being abusive assholes to assume that anyone with an anon is suspect. It has taken me several years to become more comfortable with showing my name and face and I have tenure which protects me (somewhat) from the job repercussions, but not from harassment and possible threats from my work researching the alt-right and hate groups. Even now I do the same with changing my name to make myself less identifiable when I feel more vulnerable. I do think there is an important discussion about anon within the topic of privacy- perhaps explaining to those who don’t understand why someone would want or need to be anon for reasons other than simply being able to be a disgusting troll- while it is obvious to many of us, it certainly seems it is not obvious to all.


I feel the same way and I felt badly that a bunch of people with pseudonymous accounts felt compelled to make their picture their avatar after Drunkest Librarian was unmasked as a harasser (and hard agree with @alison – he always seemed like a tool). It also speaks to a wider trend of punishing vulnerable people because of the actions of entitled and abusive white men. At my College, we have listservs for each campus and for faculty. Last week, a faculty member at my College (a librarian – ugh – about to retire) posted (to all of them) a subtly racist and sexist screed that ended up getting tons of comments (the vast majority against what he wrote and many posters sharing the pain that they as people of color experience at the College) and was basically a traumatic trainwreck. After no one from administration stepped in to stop the people who were writing abusive stuff, we finally got an email 6 days later saying that we now all have to get permission from a member of the College’s cabinet before we post anything to any of the listservs. It not only makes everyone’s work more difficult (I usually post lots of library marketing emails to these lists and now I’m going to have to get permission for every single one), but it puts racist screeds on the same level of wrongness as the BIPOC faculty and staff who shared their stories of racism and all the people who tried to hold them accountable. I was extremely disturbed by how they handled it and I feel the same way about pressuring the authors of pseudonymous social media accounts to identify themselves. Many have very real reasons to fear identifying themselves online that have nothing to do with wanting to creep on women and/or be abusive.

I’ve always been really out in the open with my social media presence and am starting to go in the other direction. I made my Instagram totally private and am considering doing the same with Twitter. I’ve started to use Tweet Delete to delete any older Twitter posts because I’m honestly scared of how things might be use out of context to attack me. My column a month or so ago in American Libraries was about the Women’s Liberation Front event at the Seattle Public Library and my view that hate speech actually limits freedom of expression in vulnerable communities. I was attacked and threatened on the article and on social media by TERFs and it made me feel really unsafe (of course no one at American Libraries came to my defense). It’s changed my threat model entirely and I’m still working out how I want to protect myself (since I’m not going to let those asshats stop me from writing about social justice-related topics in American Libraries).


ugh Meredith I’m so sorry to hear that those people came after you and that American Libraries didn’t stand up for you!!!

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@meredithf that AL article was life and it allowed for action at least. A librarian I mentored, who received the “Mover and Shaker” award decided not to accept it unless the ALA rescind their award to Seattle Public Library.

I’m really sorry to say the attempts to silence BIPOC is rampant right now and that these administrators involved in it are either obtuse or willfully ignorant. Perhaps they need moderators in their virtual book clubs that can assist them with understanding the content or maybe it’s too difficult to indulge in supporting BIPOC without hurt feelings.

I’m not going to go into admin doing twitter take down requests…sigh/ugh.

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@lnjenkin Thanks so much for the kind words! I also gave up my Mover and Shaker award (though mine was from long ago) because of the SPL award as did so many awesome people in the profession. It was inspiring to see so many people standing up against SPL’s willingness to throw their trans patrons under a bus. I wish I could say I’m surprised by what you’re saying about admin attempts to silence BIPOC library workers, but I am deeply disappointed and disgusted. I think it really is willful ignorance – obtuseness gives them too much of a pass. There are enough articles and books out there about the oppressive experiences BIPOC library workers have had in libraries where no one who actually cares could be ignorant about how whiteness silences, alienates, and excludes in organizations.