How to Protect Your Group Online
How to Prevent Doxxing and Attacks by Antifa and Other Extremists
Let's face it. There is no such thing as "privacy" anymore.
Therefore, live with the expectation that everything you say and do is being watched and some parts of it may be recorded by someone, somewhere. It could be someone you know, someone you think you can trust, some unknown entity monitoring you online, artificial intelligence scanning your messages for trigger words, governments analyzing your messages, or someone from a radicalized group that wants to do you harm.
Here's an article giving some examples.
Radicalized groups and individuals will physically attack, threaten, or find a way to harm people, their families, their homes, their businesses, harass them and try to get them fired or go out of business - there seems to be no limit to the possibilities of how far these people will go.
If someone gets your information or the information of your members, they may try to use it to harm you.
So what can we do about it? If you want to keep your group safe from both opposition groups follow these tips to reduce the chance of harm coming to yourself and your group.
1. Be mindful of what you and others say and do
Keep your garments clean. This is the best thing you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your cause.
This advice is actually based on Scripture.
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” - Revelation 16:15
You do this by obeying God's Commandments. In doing so, if people try to accuse you of wrongdoing, you will be able to prove otherwise through your words and actions.
Those who have bad intentions, work in secret planning to do harm, or are doing something otherwise harmful will be exposed at some point. The truth always comes out.
It becomes far easier to defend yourself and your cause both legally and in the public eye, if you are not a source of scandals or dark secrecy.
For example, it was revealed that BLM leaders were using donations to the movement to buy themselves luxury homes. Their violent riots and behaviors hurt people, business owners, and police. To support them, is to support their extremist methods.
This is why they have lost a lot of support in the public eye, and why they've had to rely on sympathetic people in power to pull strings to have their members released and shielded from the court system, otherwise, many of them would be in prison for their actions.
Furthermore, the shutdown of discussions, insults or harassment, and the accusatory tactics of their group only cause more people to feel isolated and divided, and it ultimately hurts their cause.
It is far easier for people to stand with you and support you if your intentions are pure, your methods are not harmful, and if your group is reasonable and respectful in everything. Since we are only human, it is impossible to do this perfectly, but doing so to the best of your ability in all things will help to strengthen and protect your group, and it will make it far easier for people to join it and unite with you.
So for example, if a member of Antifa or another extremist group tries to engage in activities or discussions that detract away from your cause and make it look bad, you need to shut them down quickly but do it with just cause. In this way, when people look back through the conversation or records, they can be in alignment with your decision.
However, if you instead start cursing at them and starting an argument, or treating them like how they treat you, it can become harder to justify your position as you were engaging with them in a way that mirrors their own.
To help you figure out what to do, imagine what the police, a judge, or another authority figure would think of the conversations that go on in your group. It is possible that private conversations and group conversations will be read or potentially used as evidence, so don't give them just cause to condemn you and your cause.
Try to ensure that your words and actions:
- are reasonable and logical
- can be justified with proven facts
- do not sound or appear threatening
- provide value to the discussion
- represent your group and your cause to the general public
People complain about censorship and having to watch what they say, but you can think of it like this...
Would you show up to a professional job interview naked?
If you're a sane, rational person, the answer of course would be no. You would do your best to make the best impression possible. First impressions are super important, especially when it comes to public perception.
Text and instant messages can be saved by screenshot or records on the messaging platforms you use. Verbal conversations can be secretly recorded or overheard by others.
If your group gets media attention or your messages get posted on Twitter or some other platform, what will it say about your group and your cause?
Keep these things in mind as you engage and organize with your group on social media and messaging platforms.
2. Moderate your group discussions
There will be people actively seeking out to destroy your group and make your group look bad. The Antifa groups are known for this. They will intentionally join your group to cause trouble.
Their goal is to gaslight people, harass, mock, and discredit your group and your efforts. To them, it is a fun game. They enjoy creating drama, making people angry, and will throw insults constantly instead of engaging in any kind of meaningful discussion.
The only course of action you can take with these types is to ban them. This does not stop them from creating a new account and joining, but it would make them go through more work to continue to attack.
You should have a team of trusted moderators to help watch and control the chat when you're away. Otherwise, things can quickly get out of hand as the size of your group grows.
Here are a list of tips and things to watch out for in your message groups:
- Do not let group members talk about, plan, or hypothesize about, any kind of violence or harm on anyone. Not only is it wrong, such messages can be taken out of context and twisted by the media or others, even if it's in jest. It can discredit your group and your cause, cause your group to get shutdown or banned, and/or put yourself and others on government watchlists for affiliation with such people.
- Do not let people post porn or child pornography. You must quickly ban the user posting it and remove those posts immediately. In general, such content is banned by most sites and hosting companies.
- Do not let members of the group insult or harass other members. It can cause arguments and make people want to leave.
- Stop spammers and trolls. Some will go into groups and repeatedly post gifs or stickers, unrelated links or content, or violent or pornographic content. In some cases it's just a nuisance, in other cases, it's an attack.
- Do not let members engage in divisive discussions on gender, sex, race, religion, etc. Those things create division, not unity within a group.
- Try to keep people on topic and engaging in meaningful discussion.
- If you want your group to attract new members, you need to create a positive, comfortable, and welcoming environment for them.
If people want to discuss violence, view porn, talk about divisive or unrelated topics, tell them to go to a different room or space for that, as there are ample places they can go. If you don't, you risk having your platform if it violates the platform's rules or terms of service.
There are people who will intentionally try to do and say thing to have your groups and platforms shutdown. They will do this by joining your group and posting inappropriate things, reporting your posts, complaining about it in mass to platform moderators and admins, drawing public attention to any negative messages they see or taking messages out of context, staging digital protests, among other things.
Watch out for...
- Paid shills - people who may be paid by the government or private companies or individuals to push some narrative or propaganda
- Trolls - people who say and do things to deliberately to get a reaction
- Bots - an automated user account that is programmed to post in groups
- Bad actors - someone that tries to lie, cheat, or deceive
- Feds - undercover operatives who are working on the behalf of the government that may simply observe or have some kind of more active roll as they hunt for extremists, terrorists, and criminals
If you encounter someone who seems serious about planning some kind of attack or other illegal activity, you should report them to the FBI.
There have been groups on Facebook that have been shutdown as well, people banned from Twitter, links that have "fact-check" notices, as well as a wide host of other issues.
You can avoid a lot of these issues by using more free-speech friendly platforms like Gab.
3. Be Careful Who You Trust
Only give admin and mod privileges to those you trust. Do not simply assume someone is trustworthy because they may seem nice to you. It could be someone with bad intentions.
When you give anyone privileges, they may abuse them, kick you out, hijack the group, or cause other problems. This is why you must be extremely careful who you promote to moderator or admin roles.
Furthermore, ensure that your mods and admins are active. If they are gone for an extended period of time, leave the platform, or for whatever reason stop they using their account, demote them to a regular user, otherwise, they or someone else may use the account to hijack your group.
Other problems you may encounter include:
- Malicious parties might buy accounts from users, this is particularly the case where creating posts in some groupes are not allowed or are restricted with new accounts (ie. Reddit)
- Some users may be offered and accept payment to post certain types of content to manipulate the group or push a particular narrative
4. Protect Privacy and Prevent Doxxing
Do not reveal personal information in a public chat or discussions (this means names, phone numbers, photos, emails, or anything else that can be tied to you). Have a rule that tells people not to share this information either. This is for everyone's safety.
There are tech savvy extremists who can take a small bit of information from you to look up all kinds of information about you or your users, then doxx you online.
Doxxing is where someone will post your personal information publicly to their group of followers.
They could find out where you live, where you work, look up members of your family, etc. then they may post your information online to their followers or share it with their group which will use it to threaten, harass, and/or physically attack you and/or your family.
Protect yourself and your members by having a ZeroDox policy. This is where you don't have your account linked to your real life account or previous accounts online.
When it comes to profile pictures, follow these tips:
- If you use a picture of yourself as a profile picture, make it so you can't be identified by it, cover your face and any identifiable traits (ie. tattoos).
- Do not user pictures of kids, celebrity or otherwise.
- Do not use a picture of your house or other local location that can be identified.
- If you want to use a picture of a person, use a celebrity.
- You can use a picture of an animal, plant, object, meme, or abstract image you like.
Also - Be careful posting any photos that may have your address or other personal information in it, including anything in the background. If you post pictures of your protest or rally, you should blur the faces so they can't be identified.
5. Use Tools to Improve Your Security and Privacy
To keep yourself and your group safe online, we recommend using the following online tools:
Secure Email Accounts
VPNs and TOR
VPNs (virtual private networks) are a popular way to protect identity online. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a VPN. VPN companies usually make a lot of promises to hide your identity and make it safer for you to browse the web. There is a long list of VPNs with details regarding their privacy features and policies that you can read by going here.
In addition to using a VPN, you can also use Tor. Here's a great guide on using Tor.
Encrypted Messaging Platforms
Use encrypted messaging platforms to prevent your group from being shutdown. Even though you aren't doing anything wrong, there are groups and people who will come after you for having beliefs and opinions they don't like.
We recommend Matrix as it is the best and most secure, plus it is a decentralized, open source system that is free and offers private encrypted messages. However, we strongly recommend setting up your own VPS server and hosting your own account on it.
If you host your own accounts, then you don't have to worry about them being shutdown for censorship or something. If a room is shutdown and you are hosting your own account, the room will still remain as a copy of the chat will be on your server and anyone else with a homeserver.
We will put together a tutorial on that later.
While there's no way to completely protect your group from every threat, you can certain take steps to protect it and minimize the damage.
To recap, the key points to remember are:
- Be mindful of what you and your group says and does.
- Moderate your group's discussions and be quick to ban and delete offensive content.
- Be careful who you give admin and moderator priveliges to.
- Have a ZeroDox policy to protect you and your group's members identities.
- Use tools to improve your security and privacy.
All of these things can help to not only protect your group from radicalized individuals and groups, it can help ensure your message doesn't get lost or discredited by them either.