In the wake of Mia Freedman parody account Mie Freedom’s demise, Crikey’s Leslie Nassar has compiled a guide to staying anonymous on Twitter. Pay attention, @Sharri2000 and @ABCNewsintern. By following a few simple guidelines, those who choose to run an anonymous account can avoid being unwillingly outed for doing so.
Creating your account
- Don’t use your work or personal email address to register an anonymous account. Use a disposable email service like TrashMail to create burner addresses.
- Choose a real-looking name for your anonymous account, and create an identity for it. Department of Australia has created a handy-dandy service called Instant Internet Decoy to create convincing but entirely fictional people who have birthdays, locations, families and answers to common security questions.
- Make sure location tagging is turned off on your tweets. There’s no point creating an anonymous account when every tweet you post has your home address or workplace attached to it.
- Don’t follow your personal account, and don’t follow your anonymous account from your personal account. If someone is looking to unmask your anonymous identity, the first place they’ll look is whom the account follows, and who follows it back.
- Don’t retweet your anonymous account from your personal account.
Managing your account
- Don’t use the same app for both your personal and anonymous Twitter accounts. Tweet from the wrong account once, and you’ve exposed yourself to the world. There are literally hundreds of Twitter apps out there; download any one of them and use it exclusively for your anonymous account.
- Choose an alternative writing style. It’s tough to remember but worthwhile in the face of increasingly sophisticated sentiment and “linguistic fingerprint” analysis. Keep it simple by selecting a persona with a simple rule, like Shouter (all capitals), Low-Talker (all lowercase), Super Excitable (exclamation marks!), or the Apostrophe Criminal (never use them, ever).
- Post from your anonymous Twitter account at different times of the day to your personal one to evade detection. Your personal tweets should never appear in another user’s timeline at the same times as your anonymous account’s tweets, particularly if you have difficulty altering your writing style between them. You can use timed-release services like Buffer to compose your posts and schedule them for release later.
- Install the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension to make sure your web browsing sessions are encrypted where possible. It won’t stop your workplace network from knowing you were on Twitter, but it’ll make it harder for them to know what you were doing on Twitter.
- Consider using a VPN service. A virtual private network opens an encrypted connection between your computer and a remote server that’s responsible for routing all of your internet activity. This prevents your workplace or mobile phone carrier from seeing (or collecting metadata on) what you’re doing. A VPN is easy to set up and costs around $10 a month. Note that your activity on the VPN provider’s service could still be logged, so be sure to check their data retention policies. TorrentFreak has a good round-up on what data each provider logs.
- Follow other people who could reasonably be considered suspects in having created your fake account.
- Post, and hashtag, Tweets about an event that you’re not actually attending, particularly interstate of international events, to further distance your personal identity from your anonymous identity.
- Post, then delete, a Tweet that looks like you’ve exposed your identity. Reference the identity you created at the very beginning; complain about your fictional children, or the performance of your identity’s favourite sports team. Complaints about waiting for tradies at home are always good, too.