Yesterday, I briefly touched on this rather shocking post I had read a few weeks ago.  In it, the author describes how her site and blog have been the victim of various hate postings and hackings that have escalated to death threats.  Specifically, she has been repeatedly told that if she goes to speak at various conferences, she will be hunted down and killed.

Hopefully something you & I will never see.

I was appalled at this, and I wondered what kind of controversial blog was the woman running.  So, I searched and looked around her site expecting to find a political or religious or some other controversial oriented blog.  Instead I found lots of posts on . . . social media and internet marketing.  Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t consider social media to be the kind of concept that should inspire enough passion in a person to warrant death threats.  I just personally can’t find the energy (or interest) to become properly motivated to hate someone who tells you the most effective way to use Twitter.

(Of course there’s more to the story, the hate originally came from someone accusing the woman of having an affair and then devolved into accusations of internet scamming.  I do not know about the woman’s personal life — it’s not relevant for the blog, and you can look on the site yourself to see if it’s true.  I will say that she has lots of content and appears to be running a real (not scam) internet marketing site, so that accusation appears false.)

The moral of this story is that no matter who you are or what you do, if someone takes it into their mind to ruin you, they can probably do it.

And since we all work in the children’s book industry where even the tamest book can become controversial (after all more Banned Books are children’s books than any other genre), let’s review some internet safety precautions in case any of us ever come under attack for our writing (or some other reason).

Here are the rules I formulated for my sister (age 12 at the time) when I found her posting comments on this blog:

  1. Never put your physical address where you live on anything public. That’s what PO Boxes are for. (Be careful where you put your physical address in general.  Even private pages can be hacked.)
  2. Never put pictures of the front of your home online.  It makes it easier for people to find where you live.
  3. Minimize the use of family member names (I always refer to husband, baby, Assistant Editor, etc. This isn’t just a cutesy thing to go along with the semi-anonymous feel of the blog.  It protects their privacy.)
  4. Remember that everything that goes up online is pretty much up there forever.  Don’t post a scandalous picture or a rude comment that you may regret 10 years later.  (For authors, this means think twice before telling the world how much you hate XYZ editor or ABC publishing house.  You may want to do business with them someday, and if they find your comment (and they will), they may not want to do business with you.)
  5. Just be careful.  After all, just because your paranoid, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t “following”  you.
Now what should you do if you are the victim of such an attack?  Well, I don’t know.  Some say fight back. Others say lay low and wait it out.  What do you think? What are some of your tips for being safe yet still maintaining a public profile?
© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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