Many of us use social media to connect with friends and family, and as a professional tool as well. Unfortunately, social media is also one of the most common channels for harassment, abuse and doxxing. There are several steps you can take to minimize the impact of haters on social media.
Turn Off Geolocation
Each time you take a photo or post a status, geolocation data is imprinted into your photos or added to your status update. To keep harassers from locating your frequent hangouts, and figuring out your home address through the geolocation of your photos at home, you can turn off the geolocation settings on your phone and in each app that you use. You also may want to turn off location tagging in social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and FourSquare. Twitter allows you to delete all of your historical location data in one click, on the settings page.
TIP: Having fun with friends and everyone wants to share pictures and updates on social media? Just ask them to make sure their geolocation data is turned off.
Decide What You Want To Share
What information and photos are available publicly? How would you feel if a harasser downloaded, photoshopped and turned a photo of yours into a harassing meme? Do you have a name, which combined with the city you live in or your birthday, could make it easier for someone to find you or compromise your accounts? Then consider not revealing your city or birthday. Minimizing the amount of information that is freely available about you, especially on your basic and public social media profiles, is going to make you more secure, though it’s also a sacrifice in that it limits what you can share with your community. There’s no right or wrong answer about how much to share, but do make the risk/reward assessment deliberately.
Monitor Your Information Online
Sometimes bloggers and journalists write posts about us without our knowledge. It can be important to keep an eye on the information that is on the internet about you. If you aren’t able to pay for an information monitoring service, there are plenty of free options, like Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts, which will send you email alerts when your name appears online. Also consider setting up Google Alerts on any common nicknames you have, common misspellings of your name, as well as your phone number and your street address, to monitor if anyone is sharing these publicly. Because these programs are free, they aren’t perfect, but they are still pretty accurate and useful.
ASK A FRIEND: You can set up alerts to be sent to a trusted friend who can monitor them for you.
Another way to monitor your name is to put it into a search column in Tweetdeck or other Twitter program. These programs will notify you if someone tweets your name without tagging you.
Images and Photos
Every once in a while, you may want to do an Internet search of yourself to see what images appear on various search engines. If there is a particular photo you are concerned about you can do a reverse images search with sites like Google Images or Tineye where you upload an image and they run a search for it across indexed sites on the web. This can be helpful in monitoring your unwanted online presence.
TIP: Be mindful of EXIF data that is embedded in images. Photos taken on mobile devices often contain lat/long coordinates. You can use a site like Jeffrey’s EXIF viewer to reveal that information.
Own Your Namespace
If you can, try to secure accounts in your name on every major platform, even ones you don’t intend to use, to make it harder for anyone to pretend to be you. Should you need to take a break from a social media account you already own, do not delete your account. Make it private or deactivate it if those options are available – the risk in deleting your account is that others can claim your handle and use it against you. To take your much needed break, simply delete the app from your device and turn off the email notifications.
Social Media Platforms
Every social media platform has its own set of security options and concerns. To make matters more complicated, those options can change with little notice. For a guide to what your options are and how to think about them on some of the major platforms, we recommend this guide produced by Take Back The Tech. In addition, this NNEDV guide specifically designed to help survivors of intimate partner violence navigate Facebook is also really great. Also consider taking a look at this list of questions from Gender and Tech Resources to help determine which social media platforms you want to use.
The right balance of security settings is up to you. The important thing is to make informed decisions about what works for you. We also recommend you re-check your settings and these guides every 6 months or so, in order to keep up with changes the companies may make.
If you have a public persona, you may also want to create a public Facebook page which allows people who want to follow your work to do so on your terms. Similar to an organizational page, this public page allows you to post article and updates, and you can direct people there if you don’t want them to be your personal “friends” on Facebook. There are several approaches to managing the friend/fan line on Facebook, as outlined in this great post from Deanna Zandt.
Twitter Blocking & Muting
Blocking and muting on Twitter can be done on a case by case basis. We understand (all too well) that when you are being attacked by a mob it is nearly impossible to block everyone sending you nasty and/or threatening messages but these are some rudimentary tools available to you. Blocking will remove tweets from a harassing account from your timeline and stop that person from seeing your Twitter account when they are logged in. Muting will just stop you from seeing an account’s tweets in your timeline but that account will never be notified.
ASK A FRIEND: Consider delegating access to a trusted friend through an app such as TweetDeck and having them block or mute abusive accounts on your behalf.
Twitter offers shareable block lists that can help preemptively block potentially harassing accounts so you don’t see those messages in your mentions. You can share and use friend’s block lists directly on Twitter.
Third party apps like Block Together allow you to install the app and, by sharing block lists, automatically block other Twitter users whom people you trust have decided should be blocked. It also gives you the option to block new users from tweeting at you, which can be helpful for avoiding attacks by “sock puppet” accounts of users you’ve blocked but who’ve created new accounts in order to get around those blocks.