SXSWi: Sexual Privacy Panel [video, audio, thoughts]

sexual privacy?

Sneaky pre-panel setup image by George Ruiz.

Sexual Privacy Online: it was a hell of a panel. Horror stories, legal aspects, hacker input, Gawker/Fleshbot ethics, being stalked, being outed, deciding what to post and when (or if) to remove sexual content, our rights to privacy — and our right to be left alone. Discussion raged, intense questions were asked and answered, and it was the best panel I’ve ever been on (not just to say that I organized and ran it; my panelists were quick, hot, full of stories and on topic). After, we were totally mobbed by the audience with questions (and at least one criticism), and the BBC hung out and interviewed us. Thank you, SXSW Interactive.

* Five minutes of SXSWi snips in video of our panel is impossible to find or link to — watch it on this Blip page.
* Listen to (download) my MP3 conversion of the 5 minute excerpts here (I hope to have the full MP3 for you soon).
* Here is some in-room liveblogging of the panel.

sxsw sexual privacy panel

My esteemed panelists, from left to right: Jason Schultz (EFF Policy Fellow), Zoe Margolis (Girl With A One Track Mind, author), John D’Addario (Editor, Gawker Media), Jonathan Moore (Security Expert), Violet Blue (me) — photo by George Ruiz.

My afterthoughts… are many. Especially since I was fresh from my sexual identity talk at ETech which ties in perfectly (speaking as a non-anonymous sexual online identity), and where I outed my stalkers — most notably I explained the mishandling of my Twitter stalker (that continues despite my repeated complaints, see who she is below and in this slide show — slide 16 — from my talk) and the Violet Blue (author) article Wikipeida defacement troll — a girl from SRL, whose IP and sock puppet ID’s you can also see in the slide show (slide #31). Here’s one the Twit-troll Twitted referencing an email I sent asking her to leave me alone, literally quoting her own email response to me — she then deletes the Twits thus exploiting the system to harass and get away with it, except I screencap every attack (as I do with Ms. Ninapedia). The full MP3 is forthcoming for that talk as well; I’ll post it soon.

twitter troll

Especially interesting was ErosBlog’s Bacchus in response to my ETech talk: Porn Versus Activism In The Troll Ecosystem.

But, it’s difficult to be anonymous or private in any regard on the internet — not impossible but difficult. The anonymous blogger has to be extremely smart, tech savvy and never make a mistake in trust or tech — many panelists concurred that it’s just not possible. (I still think it is, but I’m also an out, highly visible blogger so my opinion is different.) The bottom line seems to be that if someone wants to find out who you really are, they can, and will. The main points I wanted to drive home was twofold: one, that I think keeping trolls, stalkers, sexual harassers and individual sexual privacy contained are all platform solvable issues. Meaning, that if, say, a social networking site is built, it should accept (and not deny/decry/punish) the human urge to use it for sex play — and that all community managers should have some sort of IRL experience with being stalked.

The other point I wanted to really stress is that just because we take sexual risks online, does not mean we don’t deserve equal treatment. We do: and interestingly, I’ve noticed that the tech worlds, and especially the SXSW crowd is much more tolerant and sex-positive than mainstream media and other tech conventions I’ve been to.

Lastly, I’m honored to have our panel mentioned with big props in what I think is the BEST, most thoughtful SXSWi wrapup post I’ve seen yet: jbrotherloves’ SXSW 08 WrapUp. And — yay! — I got a mention on one of my favorite sites, Ars Technica! Thank you both!

General SXSWi update: there’s a nice post of pics from the Gawker Media party (perhaps the funnest one) here at Yay! Also check this fucking awesome Team Fleshbot photo from the same party, an adorable image of me and my squeeze here, and Scott Beale’s pic of me and Jonathan Moore in his Gawker Party Set is dorkalicious…

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  1. Feeling comfortable with levels of privacy/anonymity is a major barrier to the incredible potentail for self-expression and communication which the Web offers. I know many people, and I’m one of them too, who are extremely reluctant to join the Blog revolution due to some level of privacy concern. It’s not necessarily that we want to keep our ideas and/or experiences private from everyone, of course; there are some things that our employers would frown upon, for example, even though our friends and/or family might accept them more openly. My own employer has an explicit rule which bans any form of blogging which might cast an ill-defined ‘negative association’ on the company (being ill-defined, this could of course be interpreted in any way that the company chose at any particular moment). This situation isn’t likely to change any time soon, because employers can ultimately hire and fire as they see fit – whatever protections individuals try to establish with regards to self expression. Anyone in the Rat Race knows that even if it were explicitly illegal for an employer to fire a worker due to personal opinions or experiences posted on a Blog, the employee’s career path would nevertheless be impacted in a negative way. Long term, this might work itself out as society becomes more open to and accepting of the notions of self-expression, individuality, tolerance and so on. In other words, as people (who runs businesses) lighten up. Short term, though, the only means for many people to participate in the world of Blogging is that establishment of trust in terms of privacy and anonymity protection. It’s similar, I think, to the growth of e-commerce 5-10 years ago. Initially, many people were extremely reluctant to punch their credit card details into a web site – now, almost everyone does it every week. My own mother, who for years refused to even register her name online for anything, this year began ordering from Amazon for the first time. Online security has come a long way in the past 5-10 years, which helps, and privacy protection has to improve too. As and when it does, the more-important perception of risk should slowly begin to change simultaneously. I like to think that if blogging does go mainstream, it will have a profound effect on overall levels of tolerance, understanding (of self and others) and rational thinking. All in a good way, of course.
    PS : keep up the amazing work!

  2. Thanks so much for the compliment! The Sexual Privacy Panel was a nice addition to SXSWi. When I started blogging (way back when), I shared my own sexual stories and then switched gears when I saw how easy it was for people to find me online. I do miss it though. The panel had good tips on how to go about it should I decide to jump back in.

  3. There’s anonymous and there’s anonymous.

    I’m only concealing my identity from one person, my mother-in-law. My mom, my wife and my sister already know about my writing, and my employer couldn’t care less.

    Since she’s pretty unsavvy when it comes to tech and incurious when it comes to my personal life, I don’t have to work too hard. Yeah, anyone could find out who I am for real, but there’s nothing to be gained by it.

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