One of the first things Donald Trump did when he took office was temporarily gag several federal agencies, forbidding them from tweeting.
In response, self-described government workers created a wave of rogue Twitter accounts that share real facts (not to be confused with “alternative facts,” otherwise known as “lies”) about climate change and science. As a rule, the people running these accounts chose to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation — but, depending on how they created and use their accounts, they are not necessarily anonymous to Twitter itself, or to anyone Twitter shares data with.
Anonymous speech is firmly protected by the First Amendment and the Supreme Court, and its history in the U.S. dates to the Federalist Papers, written in 1787 and 1788 under the pseudonym Publius by three of the founding fathers .
But the technical ability for people to remain anonymous on today’s internet, where every scrap of data is meticulously tracked, is an entirely different issue. The FBI, a domestic intelligence agency that claims the power to spy on anyone based on suspicions that don’t come close to probable cause, has a long, dark history of violating the rights of Americans. And now it reports directly to President Trump, who is a petty, revenge-obsessed authoritarian with utter disrespect for the courts and the rule of law.
In this environment, how easy is it to create and maintain a Twitter account while preserving your anonymity — even from Twitter and any law enforcement agency that may request its records? I tried to find out, and documented all my steps. There are different ways to accomplish this. If you plan on following these steps you should make sure you understand the purpose of them, in case you need to improvise. I also can’t guarantee that these techniques will protect your anonymity — there are countless ways that things can go wrong, many of them social rather than technical. But I hope you’ll at least have a fighting chance at keeping your real identity private.
For this exercise, I decided to pick a highly controversial political topic: Facts. I believe that what we know about reality is based on evidence that can be objectively observed. Thus, I created the completely-anonymous (until publishing this article, of course) Twitter account @FactsNotAlt. Here’s how I did it.