Assessing individual risk is neither easy nor straightforward. Therefore, all bloggers--whether well-connected or just starting out--should consider creating a plan in the unfortunate event they are detained. That said, there are numerous resources bloggers can use to stay informed when other bloggers in their country are detained, harassed, or surveilled; when their government is monitoring phone conversations or Internet activity; and when detainees are being compelled to give up information, such as passwords, to authorities. With that in mind, EFF together with Global Voices Advocacy have created a set of questions to consider. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should offer a starting point from which bloggers can develop their own contingency plans. All bloggers should:
- Consider providing someone outside the country with the following information:
- Login credentials to your social media, email, and blog accounts
- Contact information of family members
- Information about any health conditions
- Regularly back up their blog, Facebook, email, and other accounts
- Consider mirroring your website if you want to ensure it remains up without your attention to it (see our 'Keeping Your Site Alive' guide for more details)
- Encrypt sensitive files and consider hiding them on a separate drive
- Consider using tools like Identity Sweeper (for Android users) to secure/erase your mobile data
- Consider preparing a statement for release in case of arrest-- This can be helpful for international news outlets and human rights organizations
- Consider recording a short video identifying yourself (biographical info, scope of work) and the risks that you face and share with trusted contacts
- Develop contacts with human rights and free expression organizations*
- Think about a strategy/contingency plan for what to do if you're detained (see below)
If you are arrested or detained:
- Is there a trusted person(s) that you would like to authorize to make major decisions on your behalf--such as whether to conduct a public campaign? If yes, please make sure to discuss your preferences with that person. The following are among the topics you could talk about:
- What are your preferences for public campaigns? Is there a particular message that you feel strongly represents you and your views?
- What are the organizations you feel closest to in terms of potentially leading campaigns for your release and/or better treatment?
- Are there any particular attorney(s) who you know and would like to solicit for your case?
- Do you have a preference about what to do about your accounts? (i.e. Change the passwords, turn them into campaign accounts or shut them down) Do you trust someone else to make crucial decisions about your accounts if your situation changes?
- Is there any specific information about you or relevant to your case that you prefer not be made public?
- Do you have acute or chronic illnesses which require medication or treatment? If yes, what are they? (Asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, etc.)
- Are there family members that one can contact to sign off on important decisions or speak to the media? If yes, who? Are there family members who you absolutely do not want to speak on your behalf?
When having these conversations, keep in mind that it may be hard for you to foresee every future development. The best course of action may be to have in-depth conversations with trusted friends and family members so that they clearly understand your preferences--and then authorize them to make decisions as they best see fit under evolving conditions. In other words, “delegate with guidance” so that your trusted relations can look out for your best interests and your wishes under evolving circumstances.
*There are numerous organizations out there and we could not possibly name them all. EFF and Global Voices Advocacy are great starts, but we also recommend international organizations Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, FrontLine Defenders, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Access. If you need assistance finding a local organization in your country, please contact us and we will try to help.
This post was co-authored by EFF and Global Voices Advocacy, with special thanks to Zeynep Tufekci.