This image is a Tumblr message I received recently and it’s indicative of a problem whose scope I want more people to understand. Here’s the message:

fan-mail-message-from-fishingforanvils

fishingforanvils:

Thanks for having your own domain name – it helps me get past the school’s proxy servers and read up about rolequeer theory unobstructed!

This is particularly timely because, as you know, my Tumblr, my Twitter, my Facebook, and even my personal sites have been “down” for quite a while. Some of you correctly guessed that this was intentional on my part.

Corporate-owned social media like Tumblr is increasingly censored, increasingly inaccessible to marginalized populations, increasingly hostile to people of color, increasingly greedy, and unethical. This is happening on two fronts:

So, I’ll no longer be using corporate-owned social networks. I am not a frog to boil. I can’t, in good conscience, continue to support abusive social media platforms—companies whose fundamental business model is surveillance—with my constant participation, nor can I encourage friends who want to connect with me to do so using software that compromises their privacy, safety, and control over their own data. I’m far from the first, and certainly not the only one, saying goodbye like this. Plus, this just isn’t a good place to get important work accomplished.

Furthermore, the centralization of content into these corporate-owned “services” makes it way too easy for your access to information—any information!—to be controlled by outside parties. The person who wrote to me above, for example, presumably goes to a school whose Internet connection blocks access to any site with “tumblr.com” in the URL. It’s only because my Tumblr content is also accessible through a custom domain name (a domain name that I personally control) can this young queer person with an interest in rolequeer theory access information about it. This is why the decentralization and proliferation of information you value is vital to continued open discussion on the web. And because the Internet is often the only place youth and other marginalized and isolated folks can find information about others like themselves, that open discussion is vital to the survival of our communities.

Over the weeks since I took my online presence down, I’ve started receiving emails alternately asking if I’m okay (I am, and thank you so much for your shared concern, that was really heartwarming) and also if there is some way to reference my writing elsewhere. “I want to link my friend to this article you wrote, but when I tried to find it I noticed your site was down!” Even people on Tumblr, who ironically have the convenient option of copying my entire posts in one click using Tumblr’s “reblog” feature, expressed this frustration.

Again, this illustrates the point I’ve been trying to impress upon people for a long time: single, centralized resources are a vulnerability and we must never rely on any one thing. As I wrote in my “republishing policy” many years ago:

You do not need permission to copy and redistribute my work and, if you still feel you do, you now have it

Copyleft Pirates symbol

[…] One of the prerequisites necessary to transfer ideas from one individual to another is exposure; if you never read this blog post, there is no possibility that the idea I’m writing about will make it into your mind. As a result, I’m frequently flattered by requests from group blogging initiatives to join them. However, I am also perpetually confused by these requests.

My response to such requests is always the same: “My blog is expressly CC BY-NC-ND licensed, and offers full-text RSS feeds; if you ever see something you want to cross-post to your non-commercial blog, don’t ask me, just cross-post it, even in full, without alteration, and include a link back to the original post on my blog.” Cross-posting my content in this way is not just the Internet equivalent of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” your cross-post also functions as a distributed backup copy and even a censorship circumvention node for me.

So, for the love of good and worthwhile ideas, do not hesitate to copy my content and republish it elsewhere. In fact, as long as you are careful not to decontextualize it and you include proper attribution, I’d far prefer you cross-posted my writing than asked me to write something similar from scratch. In the former, you’re rewarding my ideas (you are not stealing), and in the latter, you’re forcing me to reinvent wheels.

The takeaway is this: if you find something of mine important enough to share with someone else, please consider doing something more than sending a link. If you have a blog, host a copy of the post yourself, then send your friend the link to your blog. If all you have is a Facebook account, copy-and-paste the article into a post or message of your own. Not only is this okay with me, it is important to me, and it should be important to you, too. If you care about youth, if you care about education, if you care about rolequeers, if you care about free access to knowledge, then making copies—literally just making a copy—is one of the most immediate things you can do to support those causes.

I know this doesn’t feel like you’re “doing a lot,” but as the message from fishingforanvils makes clear, you actually really are making a huge difference. The more copies of a thing there are, the harder it is for censors to block. It’s that simple. The mere fact that there has long been and continues to be a remarkably violent and forceful effort on the part of authority figures of all stripes to make us feel guilty about our natural inclination to copy and share that which we find valuable (they say we are “stealing” or “plagiarizing” if we do these things) should be enough proof that this is a powerful act of resistance against both domination and indoctrination.

I’ll be around for a while longer, but I won’t be around forever. I know many people use my websites as an archive or a repository, but keeping a website up does require some work and, in my case, quite a big percentage of my income. I pay on the order of $20 to $40 a month for my private server, which is relatively expensive because of the sheer number of hits my posts get, especially when I post something controversial and viral like Consent as a Felt Sense. And if that monthly expense seems like pocket change to you, remember that all of my income (a full 100%) is donations, and I use that income primarily for food.

So I’m going to be shifting my online presence around over the next couple of months. For now, I’m still going to participate in corporate-backed “social” media only for events like this weekend’s Take Root Reproductive Justice Conference. See, for instance, the artifacts of my #TakeRoot15 Tweet-stream from the event:

However, my archives in those spaces will no longer remain available for long.

Let me repeat that: while I am still “on Tumblr” and so on for now, my archives will not remain available for very long. If you find something of mine useful, you will need to make a copy of it and host it yourself. You can ask one another for help doing this. See, for example, how rolequeer.tumblr.com has been doing it.

I’m going to continue working on the things I care about, but you should no longer expect me to be in any online space controlled by a corporation. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google Plus, and so on are extremely dangerous monopolies. I’m jumping ship. Alternatives do exist. I’m already there, and I’m not looking back.

Finally, many people assumed that the disappearance of my web presence was my way of “taking a break from the hate.” While the never-ending torrent of hate from the self-professed “anti-rolequeers” and others has certainly been tiring, my sudden departure from the Internet is not all that it appears. The reality is that my blogs are not “down.” The errors you see when you just punch in my web address in your browser or follow a link from Google are not happening because my blogs “broke.” The errors are intentional; my blogs have simply become invisible to some while still being easily accessible to others.

I am still writing. I am still blogging. I am still coding. I am still watching. And I am incorporating everything I learn into generating new work. Think of my web presence like Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley; so hidden from Muggles that they don’t even know what they’re missing, but if you know which brick to tap, a whole world of exciting new things awaits you…. If you ask in the right way, I might even give you the key. ;)

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