“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” declares Donald Trump. This is a clear call for sweeping censorship, and it makes anonymity more important than ever. If Congress rubber-stamps him, it will be more dangerous than ever.
When the free press is threatened, anonymous Internet accounts can keep the truth coming. It isn’t easy. You don’t know which ones are reliable and which are just grabbing for attention. Still, whistleblowers and leakers are sometimes our only source of the truth. Some put their names on their work and risk the fury of their governments. Others stay anonymous so they can stay where they are and keep the information coming.
Being anonymous is hard.
Micah Lee has a useful article on The Intercept, “How to Run a Rogue Government Twitter Account with an Anonymous Email Address and a Burner Phone.” Read the whole thing if you’re at all interested in maintaining an anonymous public persona. The techniques aren’t just for government employees, and most of them apply to non-Twitter presence. Here’s a quick summary:
- Use Tor to hide your IP address.
- Get an anonymous email address. You won’t get one from GMail, but it’s not hard.
- For Twitter and some other services, you’ll need an anonymous phone number. A cheap Tracfone, purchased with cash, will do it.
- Create your account anonymously.
- Be careful not to leak identifying information while using it.
- Let others, even friends, know about it only on a need-to-know basis.
It takes work. If getting caught is just an embarrassment, you can skip steps and accept more risk. If what you’re telling people could cost you your job or get you prosecuted, it’s worth taking every precaution.
Extra tip: Orange Website, based in Iceland, specializes in anonymous websites, and you can pay in Bitcoin without giving your name. Disclaimer: I’ve indirectly received compensation from Orange Website in the past, but this is an unpaid, unsolicited mention.