Activists are an integral, and the soul, part of change. Without activists we wouldn’t have ended human slavery, legalized gay marriage in so many countries, or gotten as far in animal rights as we have over the centuries. Activists are the most important people for humanity and the world.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
While being an activist in modern times, particularly in first world countries, is pretty safe and easy, there’s still a lot of dangers for us. Sadly, due to new technology and laws slow to catch up, activists have been put in danger in other ways than just physical attacks during protests.
I’m going to go over some very important methods of how you can protect yourself as an activist, and just a normal person, online and in-person. Unfortunately, I had to learn these lessons myself in the hard way after becoming a victim of a vegan hating stalker who tried to kill me. I wish fellow activists or animal rights groups had warned me about this, but because not everyone becomes a victim it simply isn’t thought about as often as it should be.
While in school we are told to not share our address and be careful of stranger danger, we are never told how cyberbullies and stalkers actually work online. Nor told about websites created solely by stalkers to harm their victims, such as Encyclopedia Dramatica or Kiwifarms. These two websites were created by, and still run by, stalkers with criminal backgrounds, the founder of Kiwifarms even protecting convicted child rapists. Human rights organizations have gone after these websites, but due them being located in the USA nothing is done. The US, thanks to it’s extreme freedom of speech policy, protects even hate speech, and therefore hate websites such as these. These websites have the information, pictures, etc. of victims where they are shared widely so dangerous people can see it, spread it, and go after victims. If someone uses these websites to share info about someone immediately avoid that person as only creeps use these sites.
You can read about how my stalker used these websites to put my life in danger to understand just how dangerous they are.
Take online stalking and cyberbullying seriously. While we know a lot about basic online bullying, with name calling and polemics, a lot of people don’t understand how severe this can become. If someone gives you a hard time, be quick to block them. Your safety comes before anything else. ALWAYS takes screenshots before blocking. You can take screenshots by holding down Ctrl+ Print Screen (prnt scrn) on your kyeboard, then paste it onto either a Paint page, or a Messenger to yourself. If you use Firefox, simply right click the screen, select “Take a screenshot,” and then select if you want the entire page or visible.
Screenshots can be used in court, so if the person you blocked keeps coming back with new accounts and eventually becomes a stalker, or tries to lie about your encounter, you have the evidence. Keep these screenshots for at least a year on a Google Drive, a folder on your computer, etc. to ensure that this person isn’t coming back to bother you before you delete. But if they do come back, you have the evidence.
Document ALL evidence. If they become a stalker who keeps harassing you, making new accounts to block evade, etc. screenshot EVERYTHING, make a document with all their accounts, keep a note of when they do things, and make a police report. Keep the police report number, date it was made, name of the officer, and their badge number. If it becomes severe, and police won’t do anything, contact the FBI at their internet crime site, IC3.gov.
If someone is increasingly hostile towards you, keep screenshots of the encounter and block them. Always report and block someone and document their encounters with screenshots. Hopefully, they forget you and never bother you again, but in same cases, such as mine, those people will come back. Sometimes they make a few new accounts and harass you for some weeks or months. Sometimes, it will be YEARS, and could result in loss of work, your life in danger, etc.
People are more willing to be aggressive and hostile online. They feel safe and protected, especially using anonymity to hide who they are so they don’t get caught. Don’t take a chance with anyone online. I and so many other activists have become victims of online crime. It’s not a joking matter, it’s not a simple name calling and block evading. Creeps online who decide they want to hurt you, even kill you, will ruin you in ways you never thought anyone can hurt you in. Again, read about my stalker to get a taste of how dangerous, how life threatening this stuff is.
One of the most important things you can do is to remove your identity from the internet. In the US, many companies will get your information from your voter registration and sell it. This information, your name, address, etc. can be Googled and found online. While you can Email those companies and demand your information removed, they will post it again in 3 months, and there’s so many of them you’ll be spending hours emailing them to remove your information.
An easier tactic is simply to use a service that deletes your information from being used online, such as DeleteMe, which finds websites that post your personal info and removes it from those sites. This personal info includes your name, address, phone numbers, criminal records, work history, etc. Other services like this one are Onerep, Removely, Privacy Duck, and Reputation Defender.
I use DeleteMe personally, and it allows me to put in multiple names, since I changed my name, and variations of my name, as well as many addresses and work info. I can also use a plan to have other people on it so share it with my sister. So you can use it with a sibling, friend, or other vegan activists.
Removing your information is so important because it can prevent a would be stalker from finding your information and using it to doxx you (share personal info online), find where you are, or post your info in dangerous hate groups, just as my stalker has done to me, and what has happened to other victims of online crime.
Make sure to search your name every so often to find websites that might still have your information up and send those in to whichever service you chose so they can add it to their list of sites to scan.
If you live in the European Union (EU) you have the ability to use Right to be Forgotten.
Never use your real name online. While you may want to use your name on your personal Facebook that only friends and family see, other websites where anyone can see your stuff, such as Twitter, DeviantART, or Youtube, are not places your name should be shared. Use a username, like how I go by as The Vegan Dragon. You can also simply use a fake name. Change your last name if it’s uncommon and you have a common first name. Or vice versa. For example, “Jessica Waxer” has a common first name, shared by millions of people, but a unique last name. Simply changing the last name so it’s “Jessica Smith” makes it so much harder to find who you are. If you’re an “Atreus Smith,” change your uncommon first name to James, and instantly it’s so hard to find who you are.
Or change both the first and last name for your online use.
Even meeting people in person you never know who you may be talking to. A simple nickname or an entirely different name is best to use.
Use a VPN. While a VPN won’t stop the police, FBI, etc. from finding where you are, it will stop random creeps online. A VPN works by showing your IP address as a different location. For those who don’t know what a IP address is, whenever you use a website or send something the website, your service provider, catalogs it as a specific number. So, if I send you an Email using a GMail account, Gmail and our internet providers will show that that Email came from an IP address of, let’s say, 22.63.993. That number will coordinate to a specific location on the globe, revealing where I sent it from.
A VPN will scramble this number so instead of it saying 22.63.993 it instead says 54.87.521. Thus, not revealing my exact location. Now, big websites like Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. as well as internet providers actually have the real IP addresses, and of court the VPN providers do as well. So, if you are being stalked you can still get the real IP addresses from these websites and the internet providers. It just has to be done through police, FBI, etc. So, don’t think you can use a VPN and get away with criminal activity. It doesn’t work that way. It just prevents non police from finding where you are.
There’s many VPN providers out there from NordVPN, SurfShark, AVG, ProtonVPN, etc. You can do your research on one you like, and often they sponsor Youtubers who will provide a discount code you can use.
Images uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, Discord, and some other websites automatically remove EXIF data (the information of where, when, etc. a picture was taken) when uploaded. But many other websites do not do this. Be careful if you post an image taken from your phone at home, for your address could be discovered from this hidden data in the image’s file.
Uploading an image on Facebook or Twitter and then downloading that image is one simple solution to resolve the EXIF issue, but there are programs you can use to do it as well.
Be extremely cautious with your online account security. Use several Emails. Should one of your Email addresses be accessed, having your accounts spread over multiple Emails will ensure not all your accounts are accessed. Keep a separate Email for your bank info which you do not associate with any other account at all.
Always use two-step verification if the website has the option, and use complex passwords. Whether they are random numbers and letters, entire sentences that make no sense, or made up words with special characters, the more unique the better. Keep track of them in a spreadsheet, Word.doc, or other program. NEVER publish this online, not even to your personal Email! Best to keep it on your computer and backed up on a hard drive or thumbdrive, so should any of your online accounts be accessed the culprit has no information on your other accounts, emails, or passwords.
You can make up some random passwords such as “The Cucumber Sunbathes In August.” No one will ever guess that. Never use passwords of the names of loved ones, birth dates, etc. And especially don’t use “password,” “qwerty,” or “1234” as a password. Those are the most used passwords and therefore the ones always first guessed.
For extra security, you can use Authenticator. Authenticator is like 2-Step Verification, but every time it sends a random generated code to your phone in an app, you have a few seconds to enter that code before it changes. This ensures it is impossible to ever guess the right code.
If anyone accesses your account it is theft of property and a crime. Accessing someone’s account without their permission, especially Emails, is a crime that can lead to hefty fines or jail time. If you have your account accessed make a report about it.
If you have had your private information taken by a stalker, you can call your Attorney General and ask to be in the Address Confidentiality Program. What this does is you are given a fake address to use for anything that may be public so your actual address remains secret. It is free and very easy to get into. Domestic Violence hotlines can also help you get into the program.
Have your info removed from public Voter Registration websites. Recently, some states have been putting the information of registered voters on websites to help with “voter fraud” and to better target individuals to make them vote a certain way. This has become more common due to the 2020 election. If your state does this, go to your nearest voter registration office and ask to fill out a form to update your information. You can select a reason why you don’t want your information public. They won’t question you, so you can always mark “domestic violence/stalker” as a reason.
You can also contact your local representative to have your information removed.
If you have been compromised, you can always legally change your name. All this entails is printing out some documents, filling them out, mailing them with a check to the local courthouse, and then you simply wait. Once the name change is done you can then change your info on your Social Security and Driver’s license.
To get a petition simply go to the website of your local court or county. They will have all the information listed there on how to do it. You can always call the circuit court or county for help if you’re confused. You can also simply ask anyone who has gotten married and changed their name how they did it, or someone who officiates weddings, such as a pastor, as they often share this information with newly weds.
The website for the court or county will have all forms listed and given detailed instructions. Fill out the forms, take it to a FedEx, UPS, or any postal store to have it notified, make extra copies, then simply mail it with the cashier’s check. It usually takes less than 2 weeks to get the name change order back.
Use this to apply for an updated Social Security Card: https://faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-01981
Then, simply take the returned name change order and your new SS card to the DMV to have your driver’s license updated.
I had my name changed with all my updated cards in about 3 months, given the time it took to get everything mailed back, COVID delays, etc.
Once your name is changed, don’t EVER post it online!
Never share pictures of yourself, at least of your face, online. Wear a mask to hide your face when doing protests and other activism. You can buy a gaiter from Amazon, Etsy, etc. to hide your face. If you’re small like me, use needle and thread to sew the top band of the gaiter by an inch or two so it fits snugly on your face. This company has many vegan ones: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EmptyCagesClothing?section_id=30548639
If you share images of yourself online, make sure they are marked for friends and family only. Never make them public!
On Facebook, you can go into your settings (3 bars at the top saying “More”) and select “Friends Lists.” Here, you can categorize those in your friends list into groups. Make as many groups as you like so that when you share something you can choose which group sees it. The “Restricted” group only allows those in it to see your public posts. So, coworkers, family members who are assholes, people you don’t know too well, etc. can go in that list. They will only see your public posts, but still remain on your friends list. Best part, no one is ever notified if they are put in any list!
You can also go to your “settings and Privacy,” then select “Activity Log.” Scroll until you see “Added friends.” Here, will show you all your friends and when you added them and if they sent you a request or you them. So if you are suspicious of anyone you can see when they were added and if they asked to be friends with you or if you did.
Never share where you live, work, or what is nearby you in public. Mentioning the state or something 2 hours away isn’t bad. There’s so many people in every state, and being two hours away from some place is a huge area. But mentioning your specific town, street, or unique monument by you will allow you to be easily found.
Never share your current location. If you’re at the park, wait until you get home to post about it. If you’re with a group of people you know it’s one thing to share you’re currently there. But if you’re alone, or have a stalker, wait until you’re somewhere far away or at home to post about you being somewhere.
If you meet someone at the park or during a vegan outreach and they want to connect to you to learn more, never give them your personal account. Give them only a page, website, or an account that uses a fake name/username. For example, I hand out my “The Vegan Dragon” Facebook page or this website. People can still reach out to me with questions concerning veganism, but they won’t ever see my name or other information. You will meet a lot of people who do genuinely want to stay in touch to ask questions. Be prepared to stay in contact with them in a safe manner. They don’t need to know your name, address, or private life to learn about veganism and animal cruelties.
Keep as many conversations to private messages as possible. Not only does this protect you from morons jumping into vegan conversations to bully and harass you, but it also helps prevent creeps from trying to find personal information on you, or to use only part of your comments to make it seem like you’re a bad person and make polemics about you. Always try to stay in control of a conversation, and bringing it to a private chat is best. And if the person you’re speaking to becomes aggressive, simply block and move on.
Check on The Way Back Machine to see if any screenshots of your accounts or other private information has been documented. If so, simply email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with the links to the pages you want removed. They will send you a number. Copy and paste that number onto the actual page or account you want removed to verify you are the owner of the account. Inform them you have done this and they will remove the screenshots within the week.
You may need a court order to remove screenshots from other websites as they are not all owned by a non-profit library that actually seeks to do good.
Googling yourself and usernames you often go by often to scan for websites that have your information is important to do every once in a while, so not only can you update your information removal service, but also to see which sites might have had a screenshot saved on The Way Back Machine and need deletion.
If you’re an artist, photographer, etc. make a watermark to cover up your signature on your work, and to protect it. You can find many tutorials on how to make watermarks using Gimp, Photoshop, etc. online. You can see examples of how I use watermarks to protect my work here.
If you have ever gone to court and fear your information being found through a public court record, or someone going to the courthouse to get your information, you can always expunge your records. Talk to an attorney about how to do this.
Please, take all these precautions and be careful. While being an activist is pretty safe, there is still dangerous people out there who hate what we are doing. Some of them are paid by these cruel industries, and some are just insane people with nothing better to do. Hopefully, you never have to face any of these creeps, nor go through anything I and other activists have gone through.
I know other activists who are victims of severe online abuse, which still isn’t being dealt with by the law. Please, do not take this lightly. Your safety comes before all else.
Taking the right precautions early on will ensure you do not suffer as I and other activists have. I have gone through much to warn you of the dangers out there.
Trust no one. Be Safe.
Once you are safe online, and your identity hidden, now it’s time for the in-person safety!
As said above, use a mask to hide your identity in case people are filming you to post online. This not only ties back in to your online safety, but in-person as someone who sees your face and disagrees with you may find you in-person and become confrontational. It’s better to be unrecognizable to potential creeps than for them to know who you are.
Always keep pepper spray and/or a taser on you. You can buy pepper spray anywhere, even off Amazon. It’s simply to use and can be kept in a pocket, keychain, etc. You never know when someone may become aggressive towards you during a protest, or are drunk and want to start trouble. A taser is also something you can buy for protection, but does cost a little bit more. When police are selling old equipment you can usually get some of their old tasers. They still work. Police usually replace equipment to always have the latest technology, not because something is broken.
Don’t be afraid to call 911 (999). Sometimes, drunks, a group of rowdy teens, or just bad people want to start something with you for protesting, doing a demonstration, or simply being vegan. Your safety comes before all else, so call police if you feel threatened. Have your pepper spray ready, and if possible record the people harassing you. Usually, when police arrived, or the culprits are aware of you calling police, they will scatter. But if they stay, the police are now there and can handle them.
Not all police are bad. And in cases of threatening violence, public drunkenness, or other hostile behavior the police will take that seriously. They often will simply ask the opposing party to leave, but if anything becomes too much make a police report.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Never do a protest alone. You never know who may come by, or the people you’re protesting might do should you be alone. Always have another person, better yet a decent sized group, with you as you protest and do out reach. Most creeps will avoid a group. And those who are bold enough to even say something to a group are the ones who certainly would hurt you if alone.
If you are on a college campus or doing a huge protest/event, inform the local police/campus police. Often, police will have an officer there as a courtesy for protection/keeping the peace. They don’t want a fight breaking out, and having even a squad car sitting nearby is usually enough to keep would be creeps at bay.
Make events private on Facebook. Not all protests need to be made public events where creeps and those you’re protesting can see. If you know you will be met with some unsavory characters, make your event private and send to local activists through messenger, emails, and DMs. Sometimes, surprise protests are the best kind.