Social Media Part 2: Defense against the dark digital arts

In Part 1,  We took a look at the Internet and Social Media. Who owns it? The story of the Little Red Rooster illustrates that the Internet is owned by everyone — Internet users, Internet businesses, Governments and every member of our society. This communal ownership is the bedrock of Internet Governance and that is why there has been an Internet Governance summit or forum through the years. A place where all share-holders of the Internet can meet and discuss issues. The other point of the story of the Little Red Rooster that for good or bad whatever one post, tweets or upload on-line can be commented upon or transformed that is the nature of the Internet – information is shareable, interactive and malleable.  To call for state regulation would only open the Internet to the control of the state and even those calling for regulation will find themselves also regulated. So given the nature of the Internet what can one do to safeguard or defend against its dark arts?

There are four things one can do to defend against the Dark Digital Arts:

FIRST, Guard you personal, business, and family in the digital world — There are eight things to remember when securing your person; your family and your data.

ONE, Ensure your own and your family’s security.  Make sure that your gadget — smartphone, computer, laptop, tablet and others is not stolen — (i) Be aware of your surroundings specially in public places since majority of theft happen there and (ii) secure always your gadget when you store it. Aside from the financial loss that you will experience from the theft, The loss of personal and business data loss is bor only equal to  loss of finished and unfinished work but it can also compromise your on-line personal and family security — exposing you to crime and attacks.

TWO, Back-up all your important data in case your gadget is compromised, at least your data is still safe and secure even if your gadget is stolen, broke or destroyed.

THREE, Invest in anti-malware and anti-spyware programs and keep it up to date so that it can protect from both old and new malware and spyware.

FOUR, Be aware of the usual modus operandi used in stealing personal information and compromising your personal data: (i) Do not click on any link sent to your email copy the link and open it on your browser; (ii) Do not share person and family information on-line; (iii) Always make sure that the person you are conversing with on-line is who he or she say she is — and still be economical in sharing information; (iv) Always activate the 2-step verification process for your email and social media account.

FIVE, Encrypt the data on your gadget so that if it does get lost or stolen, your data cannot be seen or used by others.

SIX, Always remember there is nothing private on-line: Emails are postcards you send and digital conversation

SEVEN, Be wary of using public wifi and change your gadget settings so that you do ot automatically connect to any wifi.

EIGHT, If you are using a computer in a cybercafe or using someone else’s computer it would best to browse with incognito on chrome or something similar on other browser. If not always make sure to log-out and make sure to erase the browser history.

NINE, Select a strong password for each online platform you use. This means different password for emails, FB, Twitter and other apps and sites. Make sure that the password is not something thar can easiluy guessed or deducaed from your posts. A combination number, words and characters would be best or use a phrase familiar to you but no associated with you.

There are other measures that can be taken to ensure your safety including but not limited to the following: (i)  Accessing websites that have https at the start of their. (ii) Use a virtual private network. (iii) Possibly use a TOR browser and (iv) in some cases do not directly charge your gadget to the wall socket — because it can be remotely activated and accessed via the wall socket. .

SECOND, Defense against Cyber-Harassment and Cyberbullying, The difference between the two terms come from the target of the bullying and harassment. Cyberbullying refers to attacks on children and teenagers — the youth. Cyber-Harassment refers to attacks on adults. Cyberbullying and cyber-harassment may involve but not limited to the following: Stalking, threatening, insulting and posting of material aimed at shaming the person. — This may be an actual or fabricated media.

For Parents the one important reason to be aware and part of your son or daughter’s social network.  It is also important to have a healthy communication with your children so you can spot immediately of anything is amiss, For adults four things are important in dealing and avoiding cyber-harassment: (i) Always secure your personal security and personal information — ie sensitive information, home address and financial information; (ii) Be aware of the community rules and privacy settings of your social media platforms; (iii) Disengage or go off-line when the harassment happens; And (iv) Identify a reliable, responsible and level-headed friend or relative to turn when the harassment begins.

In such attacks first and foremost it is important to safeguard the victim psychologically and if need be physically then deal with the attack .  The subsequent actions (see the last part of this post or section FOUR)  taken may not involved the victim but his or her representatives.

THIRD, Of Critics, Negatrons and Trolls, Dealing with comments. Anything you post on-line whether in a private or public thread is considered fair game for comments. — In fact always assume nothing is private in the digital world. There are different comments that arise from ones post:

(I) There is the acknowledgement comment — plainly this is just agreeing and/or sharing of your post.

(ii) Then there is the critical comment — this comment aims to further the dialogue or just criticizes the post. Depending on the tone and wording of the comment you may or may not answer it.

(iii) There is the non-related comment — this comment can be off topic or even diverting the discussion to the point of if becoming a spam. It would be best to ignore or even delete this comment.

(iv) Then there is provocative comment — this comment is constructed in such a negative way because it is designed to provoke a response. If you are not used this to such comments and if nothing productive will come from answering it best to ignore it.

In blogs and in other media sites one effective way of managing comments is to have a moderation policy. These are a set of guidelines that define what can and cannot be posted. This can and is also being used in forums and e-groups — for examples in Facebook groups and pages — to make the conversation productive and devoid of spam. This can easily be set-up, make sure though that the moderation policy has been set-up. Other forms of moderation management includes the following:

(I)  Participation of the readers — They can tag a comment as spam or irrelevant or purposely negatively provocative or libelous.

(ii) Registration of commenters.

Not all comments or reactions happen in the comment section. Others may write about it on their own blog, website or timeline and just link to your post, tweet or status update. In such case it would be to first evaluate the reaction — similar to evaluating comments as stated above  — and then decide on the best course of action. What you would not want to do is to engage Un-prepared and emotionally at a disadvantage.

FOURTH, Ignore, Unfollow, Block and Action. It pays to know the law, whether it be the community rules and standards of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites or the the actual law governing cyberspace — both national and international. When attacked you can make use of this to do the following; (I) Stop the attack or the stress and (ii) take action against the author or authors of the attack.

In FB and Twitter you have the option and choice to follow or even block any user. Use it. If you consider the person as a friend well you can just ignore or put that friend” on mute.  Abusive persons can always be blocked. For forums  and groups the admin and owners can block and ban specific users if they violate the rules. Use it.  In serious cases a user can be blocked or banned on the social media site itself. The last course of action would be to involve the authorities and the court — there are situation where this is need and warranted. You may do this if you are libeled. You may do this if you are stalked and harassed. You may do this when your privacy has been violated. You may do this when your property — a photo or your poem — has been used without permission. You may do this when you are threatened. You may do this when you are blackmailed. In other words when crime has been committed you can report  it to the social media site and take the offender to court.

In closing the Internet provides a person a unique opportunity to interact with others. However, the same set of ICT technology like any technology can be used positively and negatively. A rose-colored view of the digital world will only lead one to stumble and fall — in the worst case victimized.  It would be best to prepare and be aware of what can and cannot be done when you come across the different perils and danger of the Internet.


This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)