Thing is, I like fooling around with Twitter. Once upon a time I had about 47K “followers” (mostly other writers), and it was fun to play with them online. But I eventually decided I was spending far too much time on that game. I tried to justify it as a business-related thing (you know, “building an audience”?) but that was just BS. I had lots of fun conversations, and I did that instead of working. Something had to give. So I canceled my account.
Then I created a new account, much later. It looks just like the old account, since nobody grabbed my username in the interim. Only it has <100 “followers” and I haven’t tried to increase that number. I’ve been using Twitter mostly for joking around with people, and getting news, and so forth.
The problem? Well, it’s not just Twitter, actually. Lots of sites are claiming recently that they need to harass me because of “suspicious activity”–they’ll go on and say it might be a virus problem or whatever, but in reality it’s a semi-blacklist of Tor exit relays and VPN endpoints. How do I know? Well, because I use both of those, a lot. The number of them that I can use without issues seems to be decreasing.
See, users of Tor and VPNs seem to share IP addresses (stuff that looks like “192.168.1.10”). So in principle it could be that various malicious actors are using these tools to hide their identities–though there are weaknesses to this approach, and if you care? I wrote a book about it–and, since I’m using the same apparent IP addresses, it therefore makes my activity seem “suspicious.” So it’s all sweetness and light, and I should be grateful for this added protection.
But I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all, because these “suspicious activity detected” so-called warnings have become much, much more common of late. And if I get hassled because of a particular VPN’s IP address, and I jump through whatever hoops are required to either view content or log in to a site? And I then use the same IP address for, say, my next login attempt? An hour later? I get hassled again. I see only two plausible reasons for this: 1) Whoever’s developing this technology doesn’t understand that, if I “verified” my login via some other method, it stands to reason that I might not need to be hassled for using that same IP address in the future, or 2) it’s a deliberate attempt to make using IP-cloaking tools more burdensome.
Somebody or other could do a bit of research and try to quantify this stuff. In fact, I could do it…or put some effort into it. But the thing is, I don’t want to. I just did all sorts of research for that book. I don’t want to do any more right now. Other projects, you know?
Instead, I’ll just refrain from speculating as to why this is going on…barely mentioning that advertisers and governments both have a horrible tendency to gather potentially useful data on individuals (and it gets put to surprising uses), and tools like Tor or a VPN may impede that sort of thing under some circumstances…and probably just kill off my Twitter account. Again. I sent ’em an email, and it’s possible they’ll quit hassling me. But I doubt it.
Was this worth a blog post? I don’t know. Maybe. Readers of that book might find it interesting. It’s the sort of thing that can seem paranoid to those who…heh…haven’t read my book, which not only explains what’s going on in situations like this but has hundreds of links to back up my (otherwise?) ridiculous claims. Though you could get much the same information elsewhere. After all, that’s what I did.
Am I telling you to go read my book? Sort of, I guess. Mostly I’m posting this because my private list of sites I won’t go to anymore without taking additional measures–such as viewing those sites’ content via a search engine’s IP address, after I access that search engine via a VPN or Tor or both–keeps growing. I wish people would stop buying the “this is to protect your website from spammers and evildoers” sales pitch. Maybe this post will reach at least one person, and change one site’s policy, and help keep at least one little corner of the internet a bit more free?
Just hoping, is all. It’s what I do.
Have fun out there!