For Bloggers at Risk: Creating A Contingency Plan

For Bloggers at Risk: Creating a Contingency Plan (Electronic frontier Foundation, Dec. 21, 2011):

In 2011, we have witnessed the incredible power of bloggers and social media users capturing the world’s attention through their activism. At the same time, regimes appear to be quickening the pace of their cat-and-mouse game with netizens, cracking down on speech through the use of surveillance, censorship, and the persecution and detention of bloggers. The increasingly the tech-savvy Syrian regime has been reported to demand login credentials from detainees, for example, while the use of torture in some of the region’s prisons continues.

Aware of the threats to their safety, bloggers often devise contingency plans in the event they are detained. Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi was on her way to a conference in Jordan several weeks ago when she was arrested (she has since been released). In a premeditated effort to protect her contacts, she shared her passwords with trusted friends outside the country with instructions to change them in the event of an arrest. This way, she would not be able to give up the login credentials to her accounts since she would no longer know them. Other bloggers inform their close contacts of their wished contingency plans, determining in advance whether they would want a campaign for their release. A number of the bloggers arrested this year, in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, have connections to international activist networks that have experience creating global campaigns and can easily contact government officials, companies, and human rights organizations.

Assessing individual risk is neither easy nor straightforward. Therefore, all bloggers–whether well-connected or just starting out–should consider creating a plan in the unfortunate event they are detained. That said, there are numerous resources bloggers can use to stay informed when other bloggers in their country are detained, harassed, or surveilled; when their government is monitoring phone conversations or Internet activity; and when detainees are being compelled to give up information, such as passwords, to authorities.

With that in mind, EFF together with Global Voices Advocacy have created a set of questions to consider. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should offer a starting point from which bloggers can develop their own contingency plans.

All bloggers should:

  • Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information:
    • Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts
    • Contact information of family members
    • Information about any health conditions
  • Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts
  • Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it (Global Voices Advocacy offers instructions on mirroring a WordPress blog)
  • Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive
  • Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data
  • Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest– This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations
  • Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts
  • Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations*
  • Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you’re detained (see below)

If you are arrested or detained:

  • Is there a trusted person(s) that you would like to authorize to make major decisions on your behalf–such as whether to conduct a public campaign? If yes, please make sure to discuss your preferences with that person. The following are among the topics you could talk about:
    • What are your preferences for public campaigns? Is there a particular message that you feel strongly represents you and your views?
    • What are the organizations you feel closest to in terms of potentially leading campaigns for your release and/or better treatment?
    • Are there any particular attorney(s) who you know and would like to solicit for your case?
    • Do you have a preference about what to do about your accounts? (i.e. Change the passwords, turn them into campaign accounts or shut them down) Do you trust someone else to make crucial decisions about your accounts if your situation changes?
    • Is there any specific information about you or relevant to your case that you prefer not be made public?
    • Do you have acute or chronic illnesses which require medication or treatment? If yes, what are they? (Asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, etc.)
    • Are there family members that one can contact to sign off on important decisions or speak to the media? If yes, who? Are there family members who you absolutely do not want to speak on your behalf?

When having these conversations, keep in mind that it may be hard for you to foresee every future development. The best course of action may be to have in-depth conversations with trusted friends and family members so that they clearly understand your preferences–and then authorize them to make decisions as they best see fit under evolving conditions. In other words, “delegate with guidance” so that your trusted relations can look out for your best interests and your wishes under evolving circumstances.

*There are numerous organizations out there and we could not possibly name them all.  EFF and Global Voices Advocacy are great starts, but we also recommend international organizations Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, FrontLine Defenders, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Access.  If you need assistance finding a local organization in your country, please contact us and we will try to help.

1 thought on “For Bloggers at Risk: Creating A Contingency Plan”

  1. I am an individual willing to take the time to research news stories of interest, such as the global economy. One cannot find real news on MSM, just corporate propaganda & obfuscation. Reading this post tonight fills me with sadness; Mr. Obama signs in a law next Wednesday establishing a military police state here in America, adding the military to government police powers.

    Obama insisted on a feature making all Americans subject to being swept up if suspected of anything. Anyone can be picked up, held for years without charges, proof, or due process and torture is made officially legal. So much for his outlawing torture as he did when first taking office with great fanfare.

    What next? Next month, they are going to push through a law to censor the Internet. Websites that don’t agree with our government will be pulled down and/or denied access to donations through Paypal, or credit cards. Look at what they did to Wikileaks.

    Even though I have great faith in our engineers to develop alternate communication avenues than the Internet, it will be very dangerous for them & all honest protest will be driven underground. We were far better off with open protests, this law changes all of it. Any opposition to the government can cost people their lives and all their worldly possessions. This law is the answer to OWS, and that will be a distant memory by Spring.

    I am advanced in years and facing my own demise soon thanks to a rare spinal disorder for which there is no treatment or cure. From what I have seen happen over the last 12 months alone, I am at peace with it. There are two types of government that are intolerable, pure anarchy and totalitarian dictatorship. The former is pure lawlessness & total chaos, the latter is the horror we now face. People cannot do well with such governments, and the results are terrible.

    Obama promised to restore habeas corpus, a right of man since 1215. It was eliminated under bush, the right to be charged or released, speedy trial with a judge and jury with a finite sentence. All of this is gone, and the defense authorization bill enforces it with a new, more terrible dominance. His only problem with a military police state was that in it’s original form, it limited his powers. He said not one word about habeas corpus, civil rights, legalizing torture & rendation of citizens…….he has betrayed our trust more thoroughly than any other president in history. He has taken our rights and freedom and disposed of them for good. This law takes us back to the days before the Magna Carta, and those were oppressive days for most people. The few rich at the top ran roughshod over the bottom 99% of the population. They didn’t have drones monitoring and shooting from the sky.

    The idea he holds a Nobel Peace Prize is amazing, an Orwellian twist at best.

    I will continue to follow news stories to the best of my abilities, but I will be very careful what I post. Of all the eras in history I never wanted to see outside the pages of a history book was 1930s Germany. We have it with technology Hitler could only dream about. I see no way out. I read posts on websites written by people who occasionally say they are going to fight. I ask them how, and that is usually the end of the conversation. There is no way to fight them.

    We are checkmated, our republic is as dead as the Roman Republic and many people who get their news from MSM will never know until it happens to them. I see no way out, this is the end of our way of living forever.

    The thing that disturbs me the most is the incredible incompetence in our leaders, bureaucrats and security people. 4 year old children have been found on no fly lists, and getting them off is a nighmare beyond most understanding. Technology now controls the people instead of the other way around. I no longer see any hope at all. These laws are being put into place to deal with the coming economic collapse, I have concluded many of your contributors are 100% correct. The fact they are hiring people to staff those FEMA camps, and having heard from some who have seen some…..I see nothing but madness ahead & am grateful my illness will soon take me out.

    Thank you for all you do.
    Marilyn Gjerdrum


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