The arrival of the internet sparked the ability for people to create new identities online. Everything from your name, gender, age, nationality, hobbies and the like could easily be fabricated. But somewhere along the way people became fixated with using authenticity to capture their audience’s attention by using their real identities, which was largely spurred by the popularity of social media and Web 2.0.
But this type of real life to computer transparency just isn’t feasible for many, many people. Maybe you’re blogging about sex, inflammatory bowel disease, or unjust corporate practices. No matter the topic, each and every anonymous blogger wants to blog freely without having to worry about the potentially negative consequences that come with publishing their blog posts.
Privacy and Safety
By creating an anonymous blog, you create a complete separation between your blogging life and your personal/professional life. A great example of this is the story of Belle De Jour.
After obtaining her Ph.D., Belle began a career as a scientific researcher during which she simultaneously blogged anonymously about her second job as a sex worker. If Belle had attached her real name and life to the blog, her future career options would almost certainly have been limited, and her safety could have also potentially been put in jeopardy. People who openly blog about sex or pornography, females in particular, inadvertently expose themselves to stalkers and other nefarious individuals. Anonymous blogging eliminates the need to worry about receiving unwanted attention altogether. All-in-all, blogging anonymously is a way to write for yourself, wherein your friends, family, and place of employment need not worry about how you “represent” them.
Anonymous bloggers have the freedom to be much more honest about subjects when their real identity is not attached. For instance, if you’re a man or woman blogging about relationships, it might be a bad idea to attach your real name to that essay rant detailing the horrible date you had last night with Michael Scott. By creating an online identity separate from your own, you give yourself a bit of breathing space, thus allowing you to write more honestly and openly on the subjects you’re passionate about.
Blogging under a pen name lets you express different parts of your character, particularly the aspects of your personality that are not always considered appropriate or normal at times. Like Clark Kent’s sporadic transformation into Superman, your blogging identity can be a cooler version of yourself, too.
If getting rich or gaining notoriety are the reasons why you want to blog anonymously, then it may not be right for you. For example, many websites suggest placing a link to your new blog in your social media profiles, but unless you already have social accounts setup with your anonymous persona, this ruins your anonymity. You also can’t tell friends and family about your new blog, which can be a great initial traffic source.
Even though blogging anonymously makes most people write more free and honest, for some it can actually be more stressful than if you had just blogged as yourself – it all depends on who you are as an individual. Anonymous blogging can be stressful if you’re always having to reexamine what you write to make sure your blogging identity never gives clues about your real identity. Even something as small as a written email signature can induce anxiety and paranoia.
While blogging anonymously comes with benefits and downfalls, the negatives certainly do not outweigh the positives in most situations. For many, it is the combination of less pressure and the opportunity to build a new character that compels them to blog anonymously. While others blog anonymously to protect their careers, their families, and themselves from persecution.
Starting and maintaining an anonymous blog won’t be easy and it certainly is not for everyone, but it’s the most effective way to pour your thoughts, ideas, and knowledge into the world without fear of retaliation.
The following step-by-step process will go into detail about the technical aspects that come with setting up and effectively running an anonymous blog.
The simplest (but least effective) way to hide your identity while blogging is to set up a free email and hosting account with a service offered outside your native country. Make sure to not use Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail emails since their headers contain scripts that track your browsing habits and location. Paying for a web host is also ill advised since linking your Paypal or credit card information to the account will inevitably lead pursuers to your true identity. Luckily, there is a solution: Bitcoin.
By using Bitcoin to purchase your web hosting and domain name, you’re able to maintain semi-anonymity. Although Bitcoin is not 100% anonymous, it’s the closest method there is to anonymously sending money. This is why it is best to use an anonymous Bitcoin wallet such as TorWallet to use Bitcoin safely.
Create a new identity, a pseudonym, for your new email and hosting accounts. But as mentioned above, be sure not to include too many revealing details about your true identity. Case in point is police officer Night Jack, who revealed too many specific details about cases he was working on to the point where a journalist was able to track him down. Consider several aspects of your new life, such as name, age, birthplace, and background to solidify your new anonymous identity in the back of your subconscious. Get clever, get creative. If you’re running a whistleblower blog written by “Anon. E. Miss” and are using the email anonemiss.user@Hushmail.com, then you’ve started off in the right direction.
Free email account providers with strong cryptography support (click to visit):
And some well-known free hosting providers:
Domain name providers who accept Bitcoin:
But there’s a major problem with employing this approach as a standalone solution for achieving anonymity: Once you sign up for a free email or hosting account, the web server you’re accessing logs your IP address. An IP address connected to your home or place of employment can easily be traced to your true identity.
All it takes to get found out is for the email and hosting company to release that vital piece of information, which can be caused by a subpoena most probably issued in cooperation with a law enforcement agency. Savvy hackers with ill intentions can also find a way to uncover the account creator’s original IP. More on IP privacy protection is covered below.
An additional layer of anonymity can be added to your anonymous blogging arsenal by using computers that are also used by many other people. Rather than using your own computer to set up your email and hosting accounts, you can set everything up from a computer inside a library, university, cyber cafe, or open computer lab.
In this scenario, if someone decides to trace the IP address of where accounts, blog posts or comments were made, they would be led to a computer that is used by different people every day. But there can be problems with this approach as well. Some cafes and computer labs keep track of who’s using their computers, and may even require users to verify their identities with a photo ID. Avoid these places.
Here are some tips for using public computers anonymously:
– Never be the only person in a computer lab
– Use public computers during the busiest times of the day
– Change locations often, choose randomly (Example: If a whistleblower is suspected of using certain cyber cafes at certain times, law enforcement will undoubtedly use agents to stake out those locations.)
Not everyone wants to walk to a cybercafe every time they want to post a blog. An alternative to this would be to access the internet through an anonymous proxy. An anonymous proxy utilizes a random IP address given by the proxy server, protecting your home or work IP address from snoopers.
To do this, go to Google and find a list of proxy servers, a good place to start is PublicProxyServers.com. Since not all proxy servers are anonymous-friendly, find one where you’re guaranteed the highest level of anonymity, and then write down the proxy’s IP address and port.
A few reliable public proxy sources:
If you decide against using a free proxy and instead opt for a paid service, it’s best to make payments with Bitcoin inside a cyber cafe or at a random location.
To configure your new anonymous proxy, click on the ‘Preferences’ tab in your web browser. Under either ‘General’ or ‘Security’, you’ll have the option to set up a proxy server to connect to the web. Using the manual proxy server configuration option you will then enter the proxy server’s IP address and port, and then save your settings. Now just restart your web browser and you’re all set!
Just understand that your internet connection will be a tad slower when connected to a proxy. This is due to the fact that every page you request is rerouted through the proxy’s server. So rather than immediately connecting to Anonymously.io, you’re first directed to the proxy server which then takes you to Anonymously.
By using a proxy to blog anonymously, you run into another issue if you’re one of the few people in your country or area using a proxy server. For example, if by replying to other people through comments it becomes evident to a snooper that you’re using a specific proxy server, and if this snooper has access to a country’s ISP logs where they find out no one else uses that specific proxy, the connection between the blog and proxy becomes clear.
While it may not be possible to present this as direct evidence that you’re the one writing the blog posts, the fact that a proxy was used to make a post and you’re one of the few people actually using that proxy in your country, it becomes clear to anyone looking for the blog’s owner that you’re the one behind the anonymous blog. This problem is primarily a concern for anonymous bloggers located in smaller, less developed countries.
This issue can be solved by only using proxy servers that are popular within your own country, and also by switching proxies frequently.
Now that you’ve got your new proxy server set up, it’s time to install Tor, take additional precautionary measures, and get your new anonymous blog up and running.
If you’re seriously considering blogging anonymously, then you absolutely must install and use Tor. Download Tor here:
Tor is a complex, sophisticated network of proxy servers where every requested page is retrieved by three separate proxies. All pages are encrypted between the different servers.
If Tor happens to be blocked in your country, then you’re probably being governed by a tyrannical police state. No, but seriously, if Tor really is blocked then you may be able to download one of its mirrors from other websites.
You can find the official list here: https://www.torproject.org/getinvolved/mirrors.html.en
You can also use Tor alternatives like Anonymizer or Psiphon.
Make sure to read Tor’s “Want Tor to really work?” page for helpful tips on staying anonymous. For instance, if you plan on running your anonymous blog from a cyber cafe or don’t like the idea of installing software, then download Tor onto a flash drive and use the Tor on a Stick (ToaST) mobile approach. You also want to make sure you disable Adobe Flash Player and Java, which can reveal your real IP address.
But don’t make the mistake of believing Tor makes you untouchable! Take extra precautionary steps by installing a trusted browser addon that prevents web pages from tracking you with unwanted scripts, something like Ghostery. Similarly, utilize ad and pop-up blockers, which can also contain tracking scripts.
While blogging anonymously, it’s always a good idea to take a second look at what you’re about to post. Posting photos or audio, for instance, may reveal sensitive EXIF data, which can be used to tell when and where a photo was originally taken. There are several free tools available that can wipe EXIF data from images and audio. Luckily, commonly used .jpg and .png files do not contain EXIF data.
Consider the content you’re posting. Are you referencing people you know in your personal life? Even if you change their names or titles, freely putting other tangible details out there can lead to your identity, as it did with officer Night Jacker. References and jokes that only a handful of people will understand can also create an identifying breadcrumb trail. If you have a specific writing style and are a regular contributor to a forum or website, consider editing or even deleting past posts altogether.
If you have an old website or blog that you don’t want appearing in the Wayback Machine for anyone to find, alter the robots.txt file or submit a request for removal. The more layers you create between your anonymous identity and your real one, the better.
In the event your new anonymous blog is a huge hit and has developed a loyal following, understand that some of those people may actually want to meet you in person. Whether they offer to grab a cup of coffee, a drink at a pub, or tickets to the game, always refuse these offers. Even people with positive intentions probably haven’t considered the lengths you’ve gone through to keep your name secure, so don’t start exposing yourself to your fans when things look rosy – it just might be your ultimate downfall.
At the end of the day, blogging anonymously is in your own hands. Always understand the potential consequences that come with hitting ‘publish’. Be smart and use your intuition. Our hope is that this post displayed some the many ways an individual can be identified online – even without their knowing – and the steps you can take to protect yourself, should you choose to be anonymous.