On Keeping a Blog/Community Safe From Trolls

I was put in touch with a person trying to defend her blog/facebook community against brigades of trolls and other attacks. I couldn’t find a silver bullet. I would like to know what you think of this assessment.

Hi [redacted],

Good talking with you the other day. I don’t have any killer ideas for you but my main philosophy in life is reflected in the serenity prayer: the goal is to save our energy for things we can control or influence.

Based on this article and some other research, it doesn’t seem to me there are ironclad ways to prevent attacks from troll brigades on Facebook. It seems to me that the best approach is to weather those storms as they arise and commit as little emotional energy to them as possible.

As to your website, I think what you’re doing is buying a hosted service but administering your Wordpress instance yourself. You mentioned having to change IP addresses occasionally, which is a huge pain and may not be helpful in the end. One thing that might help would be to switch to a hosting provider that is more “full service.” It seems to me that a service like Squarespace (which I use myself) might allow you to step away from technical and security details, relying on their experts to keep *their* infrastructure secure while keeping *your* content available. Switching providers (and migrating content from Wordpress to another platform) would not be trivial, but in the end it could be worth it. If this interests you, see if their support people share my opinion.

An unfortunate truth in cybersecurity is “if they want you bad enough they will find a way to get you.” What this means to me is that we can’t eliminate online risk and therefore have to decide how many resources to commit to reducing that risk, or shifting that risk to others. In an ideal world, your web hosting provider (for content) and your social media providers (for audience engagement), given their greater resources, should shoulder most or all of the burden for keeping you and your community safe, since they have a lot to lose if their customers decide they’re unable to do so.

My last thought is that your content doesn’t seem to me to be particularly controversial. You’re approaching your topic from a progressive perspective, but it seems to me (and I heard you say this as well) that progressivism seems generally compatible with the topic of your site. You’re a person of color, and that brings challenges I empathize with but do not fully understand. I say all this because in the grand scheme of things I don’t think you should be a very prominent target for nut jobs. Why wouldn’t they prefer to attack, for example, overt anti-racism or anti-conservatism sites? In the end I very much hope that you will find a way to persevere without sacrificing your own well being and safety, since you’ve achieved quite a lot so far in building your audience.

I hope this is in some way hopeful. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can try to answer for you.

Best regards,
Will Irace

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