* * *
Warning to Spiritual Abuse Community regarding bloggers who may use commenters’ private email in an intrusive manner.
* * *
An unfortunate situation with misuse of commenters’ personal email addresses has come up in the spiritual abuse survivor blogging community. It has made people feel unsafe. My response was to start to write a post about “blogger etiquette.” But really, the more I thought about it, I believe the underlying issue is not etiquette, but intrusiveness and even potentially invasion of privacy by blog owners and moderators. So this is what I’m writing about instead, and I’ll need to get specific because one of my main concerns in “defending the sheep” is to do what I can to protect spiritual abuse survivors. Many of us have been stalked, shunned, watched, put on notice or under surveillance. We don’t need someone potentially violating our email in-box with their unsolicited email contact!
Above is a partial screenshot of what I see on the Comment page of the WordPress blog platform. This is the personal information that is shown on my own comment. You can see my User ID “Julie Anne,” my website address “spiritualsoundingboard.wordpress.com,” and my email address “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Beneath my email address is my ISP address (not shown on the screenshot). This is the identifying information that I see on your comments, as well (you may not have listed a web address).
So, here is the problem (and at the end I’ll have several suggestions for making our commenter status safer). Blogs like Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB) which use the WordPress platform require people to give an email address in order to leave a comment on a post. Many abuse survivors use pseudonyms for their commenting, and that certainly makes good sense. But they often also use their regular personal email address since those don’t show up in comments, and only blog owners and moderators can see them. And it turns out this is not necessarily a safe choice for us commenters, on some blogs, at least.
It has come to my attention that a particular blog has used commenters’ personal email addresses for unsolicited contact – sometimes repeatedly. Specifically, the problem is with “Jen’s Gems” (a blog which uses WordPress and deals with the saga of Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, and Boerne Christian Assembly issues) and T.W. Eston who both posts and moderates there. Mr. Eston has contacted people by using their commenting email address to get more information from them or to ask them to do favors. I have seen proof of this, as emails were forwarded to me by survivors who were creeped out by his actions.
T.W. and Jen’s Gems, this is an intrusive practice – please stop! I do not know any commenters who think they gave you automatic permission for follow-up contact, when they shared with you their unpublished email in order to leave a comment. Also, stop contacting other bloggers and commenters and asking favors, such as when you asked me for one of my own commenter’s email addresses. That is unethical and unprofessional, and a violation of my responsibility for my commenters’ privacy.
To Spiritual Sounding Board commenters: When you left a comment here, did you have any reason to think that gave me permission to share your email or connect you with a third-hand party who was interested in more details about your comment? Didn’t think so … and I am very careful to guard your personal information.
I felt the need to share this – and be specific – because many who read here might read Jen’s Gems as well because of their posts on stories related to Doug Phillips. So, please be aware that if you post comments at Jen’s Gems, they have your address and you may be contacted by email regarding your comments.
I offer two suggestions if this privacy issue is a concern to you. First, you might want to use a different email account for comments, or even create a new email account just for posting purposes. Second, I would also recommend being very careful about your ISP addresses (use library, cells phone) when leaving comments.
**This article was a team effort by Brad Sargent/futuristguy and JA. Thanks, Brad!