Here there be monsters

This is awesomesauce. I just got a spammed warning message over on Fetlife from a brand spankin’ new sock puppet account labeling itself as a friendly warning buoy. Tits. Just fuckin’ tits. And a terrific collection of links.

TarchannenIII:

Please be careful on FetLife: Important safety information and tips for protecting your privacy

Hi there,

I hope you’re having a great time on FetLife! :) To make your experience here as safe and fun as possible, please familiarize yourself with the information in this message. It will equip you with the knowledge you need to protect yourself and your loved ones here and elsewhere!

This message contains information about:

  • Official FetLife policies that put users at risk of sexual assault and rape
  • Tips for protecting your privacy despite FetLife’s lack of user privacy controls
  • Resources for survivors of sexual assault or online harrassment
  • What you can do to help make things better

Any text that looks like this is a link; click it to learn more!

Official FetLife policies that endanger its users

Although it’s invisible to the mainstream, there’s a war on within the BDSM/fetish community about whether to face up to abuse from within. Violations of consent ranging from harassment to rape are sadly more common than people realize, and arguably even more common in sexually charged spaces, such as this. Unfortunately, many assailants hold positions of power within the community, which makes it extremely difficult to talk about without being ostracized from the community. One such prominent alleged assailant is none other than John Baku himself.

Worse, FetLife actively censors survivors who discuss these issues, preventing individuals from helping one another remain safe. For more information about this disturbing trend, please see the following articles:

Here on FetLife, you can learn more by participating in the discussions at the following pages:

Tips for protecting your privacy on FetLife and why you should care if you care about stopping sexual assault

When it comes to protecting your personal information, there are three main groups of people who want access to your information: other users, people with commercial interests, and the government:

Other users includ[e] everyone from your mom on Facebook to crazy stalker blog fans. They may want information for nice reasons (say to wish you a happy birthday on the right day), because of curiosity (or its dangerous older brother, obsession), or for malicious reasons. […F]or most of us, other users are the biggest threat.

Unfortuantely, since FetLife intentionally provides no significantly effective tools for letting you control who, among its more than 1.5 million other users, can access your profile or other activity, this means users like you are vulnerable to the most statistically likely attacks you will face online. Consider what happened to Vicki:

I need help. I am being stalked and threatened by an ex-boyfriend, a “rock star” in certain communities, who wants to be sure that I shut up. He is threatening to send posts, pictures, whatever he wants to my employer.He garotted me and broke a bone in my neck and I ended up having major surgery removing a mass, bone and part of the back of my tongue as a result of the assault.

Can you please “friend” me and advise me on this ?

Thank you,
Vicki

Vicki discovered first-hand why FetLife is an extrmeley dangerous service to use. When it comes to what you can do to protect yourself while using FetLife, sadly, the answer is not much, because FetLife offers very few tools for you to do so. However, at a minimum, you could take the following steps:

  • Remove other users you do not trust from your list of FetLife friends.
  • Set your photos and writings to “Friends only.”
  • Delete any photograph or other personally identifiable information from your profile, such as photos that include pictures of your face, any tattoos, piercings, or other body modifications you may have, or pictures that show identifiable backgrounds such as public venues, street signs, well-known landmarks, and so on. Also be certain to delete any photo that you may have also uploaded to a different website so that the only photos you have on your FetLife profile are photos you use ONLY on FetLife.
  • Remove yourself from any local-area groups you may have joined, or events you may have RSVP’ed to, and do not RSVP to events in the future.
  • Change your location, age, and other profile details so that they do not reflect your physical-world address.
  • Double-check that you are not using the same username on FetLife that you use on any other service. If you are re-using your username, change it to something unique.

Admittedly, doing many of the things in this list will make FetLife far less useful to you. This is an inherent tension in using FetLife as it exists today. The bottom line is that if you cannot afford to be outed, you cannot afford to use FetLife.

Since FetLife is, fundamentally, a business, they have economic incentives to forfeit your privacy. In this way, FetLife is just like other social networks such as Facebook or Foursquare. The major difference is that unlike Facebook or Foursquare, FetLife’s product is your sex life, so they don’t want you to think twice about posting what amounts to amateur porn other users pay to access.

These facts fly in the face of the claims FetLife makes about its own security and privacy. In both areas, computer security experts and online privacy advocates widely agree that FetLife has had numerous ongoing issues and routinely communicate dishonestly to their users about them. For more information, please see the following articles:

These privacy issues combined with the silencing of sexual assault survivors on FetLife create what some people have termed “a nightmare scenario” that makes FetLife uniquely attractive to sexual predators, since it offers structural cover for rapists, rather than survivors, to be safe online.

Resources for survivors of sexual assault or online harrassment

Although FetLife does not offer support for survivors of rape or harassment, there are resources available. If you or someone you know has been a target of cyberbullying, rape, or other assaults, please contact one or more of the following organizations:

What you can do to help make things better

Again, I hope you have fun on FetLife. However, please remember that not everyone has the good fortune of being able to use FetLife safely, and many people may not even be aware of the risks. For the benefit of yourself and others, consider sharing this information with your friends, partners, and other loved ones. Additionally, if you take some of the actions listed below, one day we may all share the benefits of a virtual safer space for our sexual self-expression!

Vote for one or more of the following FetLife improvement suggestions:

Vote for better privacy controls:

Vote to let survivors name their abusers:

Pressure FetLife directly

  • Send an email to privacy@fetlife.com demanding that they address these issues in a constructive way.
  • If you’re on Twitter, post a tweet to alert other people of the issues with and dangers of using FetLife. Here are some tweets you can copy-and-paste:

Rapists have cover on #FetLife: http://goo.gl/oBN5h http://wp.me/pmQrt-M0 http://tinyurl.com/c932e5c Important reads! Pass it on.

Stay safe on #FetLife! http://tinyurl.com/c932e5c http://is.gd/NgZ9NA http://tmblr.co/Z4w0ayRSgRhd #Consent & #privacy matter. Pass it on.

Be careful on #FetLife. Rape survivors are silenced there: http://ow.ly/dwJIi http://tmblr.co/Z4w0aySWGrEY http://wp.me/pQA3i-U6 Read & share!

As always, please also forward any of the information contained in this message to anyone and everyone you feel would benefit from it. You are also encouraged to re-post this message in part or in whole anywhere you wish, whether on FetLife or elsewhere.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important safety information and for helping to keep other FetLife users like you safer. Knowledge is power and sharing is caring, so share your knowledge with the people you love.

Sincerely,
-A friendly FetLife warning buoy

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