You need to know this stuff because there are malicious and hateful individuals that will do whatever they can to make you feel afraid or stop you from affecting change. Whether you’re posting on social media or lobbying on other parts of the web, you’ll likely have already experienced your fair share of distasteful responses. But there’s also the possibility of hackers, abusers, political rivals, government organizations, and hate groups that can target you for your views, or their personal gain.
While this may all sound a little bit scary and overwhelming, we mustn’t allow antagonists, racists, criminals, and opposers to impede BLM or the broader social justice movement. People across the internet must take action by persisting with the crucial message of BLM. By adopting the tips in this article, you can continue to support social justice issues safely for years to come.
The internet is full of people who are up to no good. During times of social change, it’s no surprise that people with their own agenda are looking to exploit the situation.
Targeting someone because of their opinion is simply not acceptable. Here are some ways you can avoid these spiteful groups, all while reducing the risk of threats as you support Black Lives Matter online.
If you engage in social activism online, malicious people and groups can use the information on your social media against you.
Harassers might comment on your social media posts with hateful language to disparage what you say. They may even go as far as analyzing your content and personal information to dox you (revealing your private information online), harass you across other platforms and in real life or target your friends and family.
Snoopers, hackers, or other bad actors might use your contact details or personal information to launch phishing attacks against you, either to monitor what you’re doing or to commit various types of fraud.
By making your social media private and secure, you can reduce the risk of exposure to these threats.
If you plan on supporting BLM publicly, and you’re confident in engaging openly in conversations, debates, or collaborative discussions online, be careful about what information you share.
Consider keeping at least two separate public and private accounts on any social media. For example, you could create a public Facebook profile that’s completely open, and a 2nd private account just for close friends and family.
When supporting BLM online publicly, limit how much of your personal life, relationship, location, other information you reveal. Make sure your posts or public profile don’t accidentally reveal anything that could be used to hurt you or make you vulnerable to attacks.
As soon as you start supporting BLM online, you could experience an onslaught of attacks, bullying, and attempts to dox you.
But by creating a buffer between your public ‘persona’ and your private online life, you can shield yourself from most attacks.
If you choose to support any social justice cause, it’s not always possible to prevent others from responding negatively to your content. A friend, colleague, or family member may suddenly expose themselves as hostile and bullying.
It’s exhausting dealing with negative comments, messages, and other forms of online bullying. Still, there are some effective ways you can stop bad actors from interfering with your support for Black Lives Matter.
Individuals may post comments rubbishing your opinion, being racist, abusive, or generally unpleasant. In this case, you should simply report and block them, and take screenshots of any nasty remarks you receive in your comment section or inbox to use as evidence or to publicly out them for their bullying or racism.
You’ll get called a snowflake or ridiculed for ‘cancel culture.’ Just ignore it.
Follow these steps to avoid persistent online abuse while holding on to evidence of this harassment should it become a real problem and you need to report it to the police. In doing so, you’ll stop malicious individuals from spoiling healthy conversations about equality, or making you feel unsafe online.
This one seems obvious, but it’s vital. If someone pops up in your online network, reaching out privately and asking to connect, be extremely cautious. However trustworthy they may seem, they could have very sinister intentions.
Bad actors with all sorts of different motivations could appear as friends or sympathizers to build trust and extract information about you. From here, they could launch cyberattacks or other forms of abuse.
We need to continue to have healthy conversations about rights and racism, but keep your personal information to yourself. That way, you can prevent the threat of strangers with ulterior motives.
If you’re practicing activism online, you need to download a VPN and antivirus software onto your computer for extra protection.
A VPN is a program that encrypts your data and masks your IP address. In other words, it makes it difficult for anyone to see your location, your data, or your online activity. VPNs work by creating a super-secure connection with a server in a different location, making it seem like you are connected to the internet from a completely different location.
A VPN will prevent governing bodies, hackers, and politically-driven snoopers or harassers from tracking down your location or intercepting your communications. Some of the best programs you can get include NordVPN and ExpressVPN, which have a high level of security.
Antivirus is another critical piece of software you’ll need in your tool kit for online activism. Antivirus prevents, detects, and removes malicious software from infecting your computer. With antivirus, you can protect yourself from anyone who’s targeting you with malware or spyware attacks.
If you have a blog or website where you post about social justice issues, you can also set up a firewall. This filters traffic to your site and blocks certain users that seem unsecure or suspicious. Firewalls essentially prevent anyone from gaining unauthorized access to private information on your computer.
A phishing attack is a specific type of social engineering tactic that hackers use to access your device, steal information, or commit fraud.
In a phishing attack, hackers send emails posing as a real, trustworthy, and reputable business or organization, hoping to trick you into revealing personal information or clicking a link embedded with malicious viral software. From here, they could infect your device, break into a secure network, or use your information for various forms of abuse and fraud.
If you’ve been posting a lot of content about BLM, someone conducting a phishing attack may attempt to appear as a supporter, a fellow activist, or a civil rights group to build trust. Phishers will often contact you through email or over the phone, so question anyone who contacts you randomly if you don’t know who they are.
Only click a link in an email or give out any personal information when you can trust the source 100%. Check the URL in any email you receive before clicking anything and cross-reference it with the website from which it appears to be connected.
Learn how to spot phishing emails and phone calls, and don’t be afraid to block and hang up on someone.
Any time you sign up for a newsletter, sign a petition, or engage in anything online that requires your email address, you could be vulnerable if that database is hacked or breached.
To avoid such risks, create a separate email account that you use exclusively for these activities. Leave it completely blank, with no personal information listed. Don’t use the email address to join any other platforms not related to supporting BLM or other causes.
This way, if your email is stolen or hacked, nobody can use it against you in an attack or hacking campaign. You won’t be vulnerable to threats, online abuse, and cyberattacks if a hacker accesses the email list. You’re also protected in case whatever you’re signing is a hoax, too.
Encrypted messaging and email tools keep your messages safe and secure. They basically stop any outside sources from monitoring your online conversations.
Why is this important?
The internet has been a revelation for protesters who want to organize social events, share important resources, and network with other like-minded people. However, hate groups, governments, alternative political operators, hackers, and harassers have monitored activists on unencrypted messaging services for years.
By encrypting your online communications, you can prevent bad actors from disrupting or infiltrating your network, along with all of the other vital aspects of social activism.
Platforms like Signal, Telegram, and Viber are great apps that keep your messages safe and secure. Meanwhile, apps like Protonmail and Hushmail do a fantastic job of encrypting your emails
Traditionally, many people have relied on Whatsapp. However,t now that its owner Facebook is exploring selling user data, it can no longer be trusted.
Using unsecure networks like public WiFi to get online is always a risk. This may surprise you, but malicious parties can easily access the connection — positioning themselves in between your device and the WiFi to download malware onto your computer, monitor your communications, or steal your information.
You should be extra careful, then, when you’re active about social justice injustice issues from your local coffee shop, or while connected to any other form of unsecured WiFi. Bad actors could intercept your traffic and data, target you for what you’re posting, and instantly attempt to attack you while you’re connected. They could even steal information about a protest or demonstration from your communications, disrupting the event later on.
To avoid issues like these, only use public WiFi networks when absolutely necessary, and never access private accounts that require passwords while on.
Once again, a VPN is ideal here. Even on a public WiFi network, it will encrypt your data and keep you hidden. In fact, no one else on the same network will even know you’ve connected.
Since the earliest days of Black Lives Matter, there have been numerous online incidents targeting the movement and its supporters.
Malicious individuals have carried out DDOS attacks, scams, abusive campaigns, and doxing against the official BLM organization and its supporters.
By seeing the tactics bad actors use to oppose, disrupt, or profit from BLM and its activists, you’ll have a better idea of what to look out for as you support Black Lives Matter online.
The earliest known cyberattacks on BLM can be traced all the way back to 2016. Following the senseless and unprovoked police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, protests were organized across the United States. The BLM website experienced a surge in visitors looking to help out and learn more about the cause.
Unfortunately, the ‘blacklivesmatter.com’ website was also targeted in a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which bombarded the site with enough traffic to shut it down. Over 15 million connections to the website were attempted in one day, conducted by more than 12,000 bots.
Due to the timing of the attacks, along with similar DDoS attacks that were conducted in the same period, it was thought the cyberattacks were part of a unified online offensive against racial and social justice institutions.
In October 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that technology corporations were giving the company Geofeedia — which calls itself a ‘social media monitoring company’ — special access to their users.
Geofeedia openly advertised itself as a service to track Black Lives Matter activists, and the platform even worked in conjunction with US law enforcement, including at least 13 different police agencies.
Geofeedia had ‘developer-level access’ to social media sites and was able to review and collect data on users, including details like user location, as well as a ranked feed of posts.
A Geofeedia representative said one of its features “covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success.” — a reference to Geofeedia’s role in helping the police shut down BLM protests in the wake of Brown’s killing and protest against widespread police abuses in Ferguson, Missouri.
The fact the company was able to make large amounts of money from the trading of public data was scandalous, and in all likelihood, a breach of data protection laws.
Stories like this show the importance of encryption tools. Geofeedia’s data gave police a direct source of information to crack down on BLM activity. If communications are done through encrypted messaging services, it makes life a lot harder for third parties who try to track your conversations.
DDoS attacks against BLM’s protests would continue relentlessly throughout the second half of 2016. These attacks were part of a large-scale operation, with some seeing as many as 34 million attempted connections in a single day.
‘Ghost Squad,’ which is part of Anonymous, was to blame for several attacks. After one of the first DDoS strikes on BLM (back in May 2016), Ghost Squad claimed credit for the cyberattack in a YouTube video. In the video, they accuse BLM of anti-white racism, seemingly a motivation for the attack.
Attacks began to taper off in October, with Ghost Squad members “bannedoffline” and “s1ege” thought to be at the heart of the campaign.
The scale and persistence of Ghost Squad’s attacks were alarming, and demonstrate the lengths organizations will go to disrupt support for Black Lives Matter.
A Russian hacking group called the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) set up a fake online BLM campaign called “Don’t Shoot Us”’ in 2017.
The IRA is a political hacking organization that engages in massive online influence campaigns. The group acts in Russian businesses and politicians’ interests and is linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Across multiple platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and a self-titled website, the group posted divisive political messages and disinformation supporting BLM. Ultimately, the IRA aimed to radicalize protesters and incite fear of BLM as a “rising threat” to other Americans.
The Don’t Shoot Us campaign included publicizing protests that didn’t exist, and even an elaborate competition on popular gaming app Pokemon Go. Users were told to play at locations of alleged police brutality, and could win prizes by naming their in-game characters after victims of police violence.
Eventually, Don’t Shoot Us admitted the campaign was a “total troll job.”
By January 2018, it became clear that the same hackers behind “Don’t Shoot Us” (the Internet Research Agency) had been radicalizing the political left and right with content related to racism in the US for several months.
Around 29 known fake Twitter accounts were found dispersing content both for and against Black rights movements. The tweets contained BLM-related keywords and hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and #AllLivesMatter.
Throughout the majority of 2016, around 20,000 Twitter accounts on both the political left and right tweeted one or more of the three BLM-related hashtags above. Of these accounts, two of the fake Russian accounts were featured in the top 12 most-retweeted accounts among all 20,000.
Similar to Don’t Shoot Us, the campaign promoted BLM support and encouraged violence against the group from its opposition. These two examples demonstrate the political motivations that other governments and businesses can have in disrupting BLM, and other forms of activism.
In this case, the Internet Research Agency didn’t target BLM for their message but to further affect racial tensions in the US.
In April 2018, a CNN investigation revealed a major scam operating through an unofficial Black Lives Matter Facebook page.
The page had grown to become the largest BLM page on the site, with around 700,000 followers. It generated approximately $100,000 worth of financial support for the official BLM activist group.
Only it didn’t… Some of the donated money allegedly ended up in various unidentified Australian bank accounts.
The man behind the scam was revealed as Ian MacKay, a white, middle-aged Australian citizen who worked for the country’s National Union of Workers (NUW). MacKay had created other Black rights-related sites, including blackpowerfist.com.
MacKay used official logos and a similar yellow and black design to BLM on his page, which also featured a merchandise shop and a portal where visitors could donate to the cause through PayPal or DonorBox.
All together, MacKay’s actions show that some bad actors will target activists for no other reason than their own personal and financial gain.
In late May 2020, following George Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin, protests broke out across the world.
Predictably, any time Black Lives Matter and related protests gain increased focus, malicious schemes and cyberattacks targeting the movement also increase.
In fact, cyberattacks on US anti-racism advocacy groups spiked by 1,120 times from May 26th to June 1st when compared to the last week in April. They included attempts to stop anti-racist groups from exercising their freedom of speech and almost 140 million website connection requests which were likely malicious.
Black rights groups experienced up to 20,000 malicious requests per second on a single site.
In total, Cloudfare said it blocked 135,535,554,303 (over 135 billion) malicious HTTP requests on the 30th and 31st of May. That’s a 17% increase (or some 110,000 additional blocked requests per second) across all of the websites it helps keep safe, not just activist websites.
These attacks are awful, and they are not only motivated by racism. They are also the product of opportunistic criminals, who look to target workforces while they’re otherwise distracted.
Soon millions of people across the world were marching in protest of police brutality and systemic racism. Hackers preyed on the issue of racial injustice that was on everyone’s mind in June 2020.
Hackers used the widespread support for BLM to launch scams, phishing campaigns, and malware attacks on activists online. One notable phishing email was disguised as a government plea, urging people to anonymously vote for BLM by filling in a survey.
The email asked victims to “Leave a review confidentially about Black Lives Matter” and to “Claim in attached file.”
Sitting on a word document titled “e-vote_form_3438.doc” was a Trojan malware called TrickBot, which was commonly downloaded onto a victim’s system once the document was opened.
Trojan malware is often used to steal sensitive information. TrickBot is traditionally a banking Trojan, which steals banking credentials or money from the victim. However, the software can install various other forms of malicious software and even act as the base for the destructive Ryuk Ransomware. Now, TrickBot can collect data from a user’s emails, browser, or installed apps.
Not only were phishing attempts rampant in June 2020, the week of June 4th to June 11th saw an average of 49 new domains that included the words ‘Black lives’ or ‘George Floyd.’
A cyber-threat spokesperson from whoisxmlapi.com said that these domains were commonly used as “phishing traps,” with victims conned into sending money to an activist organization or foundation that doesn’t exist.
Along with the abundance of BLM-related phishing emails, these attacks show how hackers can capitalize on a situation — scamming people while their attention is elsewhere.
Another appalling response to the George Floyd/BLM protests occurred online. As the movement gained traction, social media comment sections were rife with racist remarks, misinformation, and cyberbullying attempts from opposers of BLM.
One news site highlighted comments such as “another racist protest by Black people,” while another disgruntled BLM opposer remarked “shut up Black woman” in response to a pro-BLM commenter.
Unfortunately, comments like these were a regular occurrence across the social media of BLM pages and otherwise. Even worse language was used in many. They are deeply upsetting for many BLM activists, while misinformation threatens to sabotage BLM’s true message.
This online response shows how often bullies, abusers, and racists can show their faces wherever there is BLM-related content. If we better manage comment sections and remove unpleasant people, comments like these can be avoided.
An extensive doxxing operation targeted leading BLM activists in mid-June.
The operation gained momentum within the alt-right community on popular message board site 4chan 4chan users posted links to BLM channels on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that BLM organizers had been using to plan protests in the US.
In posts seen by thousands of people, alt-right 4chan users told others to infiltrate these BLM groups. People were encouraged to spread misinformation in the groups, analyze the messages for any ‘incriminating’ information, and to store as much personal and organizational information belonging to group members as they could.
Phone numbers of activists and bail support schemes were posted on 4chan, along with the addresses of alleged “Antifa safehouses.” Though there was no explicit instruction on what user’s should do with the information they post, the implication was that it would be used to harass activists and BLM organizers.
Just like “Gamergate,” which we highlight in the next section, this doxing campaign shows how people with alternative political interests can come together online to form online “hate groups.” In this case, the hate group vehemently opposed Black Lives Matter.
While scary, much of your exposure to these threats can be mitigated by following the safety tips outlined in this article.
Here is a mix of statistics and stories from the last few years that demonstrate patterns in online harassment and abuse toward activists and marginalized groups.
Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has been subject to horrific online abuse over the past few months. Some harassers claimed she should be “burnt at the stake,” while others have circulated images that depict Greta as the victim of a sexual assault, or as a sex doll.
This type of over-sexualization of a teenage girl is a common pattern in the online harassment of women who are involved in activism or politics.These women are attacked by men online because of their gender, as people want to deny them the ability to participate in political discourse.
The same can be said for other public figures who face online abuse as part of a marginalized group (such as the LGBTQ+ community or as a racial minority). Some abusers target people because of who they are or what they represent, as opposed to what they actually say.
The online abuse of Greta Thunberg highlights another pattern, too, particularly in the type of high-profile detractors who comment on her social media.
One comment that garnered particular scrutiny came from British businessman Aaron Banks. When Greta Thunberg was pictured on a yacht, Aaron retweeted with the caption “reak yachting accidents do happen in August…”
Like other populist detractors, Banks is a Brexiteer and a climate change denier. Interestingly, Banks is also a man with links to the fossil fuel industry.
As has been the case with people who are sharing distasteful, oversexualized images of Greta Thunberg, they abuse activists because they are politically and/or economically interested in the failure of that group/person.
In other words, if Greta Thunberg succeeds, men like Banks stand to lose a lot of money.
A survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that, in 2021, 41% of Americans received some form of online harassment or abuse.33% attributed this harassment to an identity characteristic such as race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
Black and Asian minority groups saw the largest year-on-year increase in severe online harassment and abuse.
17% of Asian american respondants experienced sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats, swatting, doxing or sustained harassment in 2021, compared to 11% in 2020. 50% of these people believe they were targeted because of their ethnicity.
Severe racial harassment against Black respondents also increased with 59% attributing their harassment to their ethnicity, up from 42% in 2020.
These results highlight how online abuse is a growing problem, particularly in the wake of major social events like COVID-19 and BLM. As activism grows online, more harassers come out of the woodwork. That’s why we must do what we can to reduce the impact of online harassers.
Timmit Gebru was employed at Google as a respected AI ethics researcher. Gebru wrote a paper outlining the dangers of large language models, the same technology that powers Google’s own search engine.
Google’s response was to fire Gebru in a blatant example of retaliation, then publicly stating that she had resigned.
The event sparked a swathe of bizarre online abuse targeted at Gebru. Whistleblower Michael Lissack and University professor Pedro Domingos spearheaded a relentless campaign of slander and defamation against Timmit Gebru.
Their tweets were aided by an army of anonymous Twitter and email accounts, suspected as “sock puppets” or fake profiles, which targeted Gebru with malicious hate speech and online harassment. One profile even told her to “go back to Africa.”
Lissack was eventually banned from Twitter, but only after nearly a month stoking the flames of abuse aimed at Timmit Gebru. An act for which he received no lawful punishment or sanction.
Once again, a woman chose to speak up (in this case, as part of her job), while one group of men chose to fire her, and another chose to attack her relentlessly online.
2020’s Anti-Defamation League survey highlighted the inadequacy of how online abuse is policed.
Based on results from the study, over 87% of Americans think policymakers need to strengthen laws around cyberhate, and improve training and resources for police officers who are investigating incidents.
81% of survey respondents either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that there should be laws to hold online harassers accountable for their actions.
In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League’s poll found that 81% of Americans believe social media platforms have to do more to combat online harassment and abuse.
77% of respondents believe laws must be put in place to hold social media sites accountable for recommending extremist groups to users.
The study comes at a time where professional athletes and sports organizations are boycotting social media across the world.
Thierry Henry, a world-famous football player, announced that he would be leaving social media until it is no longer easy to create an account and abuse individuals online.
He said: “The sheer volume of racism, bullying, and resulting mental torture to individuals is too toxic to ignore. There HAS to be some accountability. It is far too easy to create an account, use it to bully and harass without consequence and still remain anonymous.”
Numerous high-profile personalities and organizations have followed in Henry’s footsteps since, piling pressure onto social media platforms to make a change.
As we have seen in the many DDoS attacks on BLM, hackers often target activists with cyberattacks to keep them quiet.
Though not directly a form of online harassment, these types of actions are harassing in the way they aim to frustrate a certain group and deny their right to free speech and seeking justice. Similar to the kind of abuse faced by Greta Thunberg.
In February 2021, one story broke about an incident in Vietnam. An activist group that continually lobbies for better human rights in the country came under fire from a hacking group called Ocean Lotus.
Ocean Lotus targeted group members with phishing emails. The emails contained a link that included spyware, which could be used to monitor or disrupt members of the activist group.
Ocean Lotus is thought to have carried out similar attacks on political dissidents across Vietnam, and clearly hopes to affect each activist operation. Thankfully, the threat of groups like Ocean Lotus can be avoided by educating yourself on cybersecurity, and how to prevent phishing attempts.
Online harassment can also gather momentum to a devastating extent. The Gamergate controversy only serves to highlight this potentiality.
In 2014, a movement online began to gain momentum that accused gaming journalists of being “unethical.” The result was mass hoards of harassers who systematically abused, threatened, and doxed a number of women within the gaming industry. Many of these women were not even gaming journalists, but still harassment persisted under the hashtag of “amergate.” The issue is still prevalent today.
This type of misogyny has been present in the gaming community for years, and Gamergate came about partly because of extremists and white supremacists recruiting and pushing their agendas on online gaming forums.
Years later, a similar organized online mob of extremists resulted in essentially an act of terrorism. The storming of the capitol would not have been possible without conversations online. Social media sites, regulators, and cybersecurity companies need to take note.
A Pew Research study found that 76% of managed security service providers (MSSPs) and 71% of cybersecurity software companies stayed silent on BLM, including the related topics of systemic racism and police brutality.
At a time when hackers and cybercriminals are profiting from BLM-related scams, phishing, and social engineering attacks, only 5% of the top 100 MSSPs use Twitter to educate people about racially-charged threats and their dangers. A measly 3% of top cybersecurity software companies use Twitter to educate users on racial injustices.
The results are shocking, given the prevalence of online harassment and abuse targeted at minories, while the issue also perpetuates a growing lack of diversity within the technology community.
Despite the lack of policing from social media regulators themselves, some people are taking online abuse into their own hands.
Following the events of Black Lives Matter, students from one school in Wahsington D.C. set up a Twitter account to oust other pupils’ examples of racism, cultural appropriation, or general lack of sensitivity to the George Floyd murder.
This involved posting screenshots of online conversations, or even videos of pupils’ questionable behaviour. The account frustrated and embarrassed many of the exposed pupils, who often responded aggressively in the comments section of the account.
The plan seemed to work for this particular school by drawing attention to issues of racism and discrimination. The account gained 3,000 followers in two days, and pupils at other schools across America began to implement the same strategy soon after seeing this success.
All in all, malicious parties will do whatever they can to stop you practicing activism online. From phishing attempts, doxing, and DDoS attacks to mass online harassment campaigns that even use fake accounts, bad actors have a number of tricks up their sleeve to target activists.
Malicious individuals carry out their online attacks for different reasons. It might be because they don’t like the group someone belongs to, or the impact of what they are fighting for. They may have an alternative political, economical, or ministerial agenda, or they may even harass supporters of Black Lives Matter just because they’re a disagreeable person.
If you improve your online safety, you can stop bad actors from wreaking havoc and disrupting the lives of activists and innocent people. That’s why following the steps outlined in this article is so important. Don’t let someone silence your voice, and your right to support Black Lives Matter online.
NEW YORK, N.Y. and SINGAPORE, Sept. 26, 2023 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — The recent release of… Read More
NEW YORK, N.Y. and SINGAPORE, Sept. 26, 2023 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — BypassGPT, a progressive leader… Read More
Makkpress Technologies, a distinguished leader in the technology and digital solutions industry, is delighted to… Read More
Casepacer LLC., a trailblazing leader in legal technology, is thrilled to announce the launch of… Read More
Alexandria, VA - (NewMediaWire) - September 25, 2023 - As the health and wellness industry… Read More
LOS ANGELES, Calif., Sept. 25, 2023 (SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE) — Neo-Bionica, a leading innovator in the… Read More