Kiwi Farms made the internet safer for trans people

I remember how I felt the first time I was doxed. As if all my nerve endings were directly touching an electric fence as anxiety raced through my body. It was there: my new legal name, my pre-transition name, address and phone number, right there on a website. There were also a lot of comments. So many comments, and growing rapidly. I don’t know how many pages the thread has today, but it was approaching 80 the last time I looked, several years ago.

Good thing Kiwi Farms is almost dead now.

The website, Kiwi Farms, has documented everything I’ve posted on the internet since that first doxing in 2017.

Kiwi Farms is a vast message board platform dedicated to documenting and mocking a wide range of people on the internet, from influencers to journalists, to random individuals that Kiwi Farms users become obsessed with. Of particular interest to many site users have been trans people, whom they have referred to as “troons”, a derogatory portmanteau of “tranny” and “goon”. Probably the best way to describe the site’s users is terminal online people from a wide range of political ideologies, from far-right and anti-trans feminists to edgy leftists obsessed with consuming internet drama.

The site is an old-fashioned message board, where any user with an account can post a message to one of the message board’s many threads, each with a different target. More often than not, a subset of users will spend a lot of time searching for personally identifiable information. Some targets have had their addresses or telephone numbers published on the forum; other targets also saw their friends and family doxed.

Harassment extends beyond online harassment; Last month, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was run over, meaning someone sent a fake emergency report to police claiming to be at a target’s address, so police would get presents and stops the target. The person who took responsibility for the crash claimed to be a Kiwi Farms user, saying she was upset with Greene’s stance on gender-affirming care for trans youth. Given the site’s obsession with stalking random trans people on the internet, the claim is perhaps dubious. Unsurprisingly, Greene called for the site to be shut down.

Over the past few weeks, transgender streamer Clara Sorrenti, known as Keffals, has been pursued around the world by Kiwi Farms doxers and stalkers.

First, Sorrenti was doxed and crushed in her own home. She was doxed again in the hotel room she fled to, then again after fleeing the country to Northern Ireland, where a Kiwi Farms user posted a handwritten note outside the house of a friend where Sorrenti was staying in Belfast. A few days later, another user claimed that he called local men there who would bomb the restaurant Sorrenti and her friend were going. Another said he wanted personally fly to Ireland and bomb the house where she lived.

It was this threat that apparently finally broke the camel’s back for the site. Late last week, DDOS protection service Cloudflare ended its services for Kiwi Farms, essentially driving the platform out of the mainstream internet.

Good thing Kiwi Farms is almost dead now. Ultimately, his passing is a victory for freedom of expression and the social exchange of experiences and ideas. Nobody likes a bunch of random people watching and monitoring what anyone is posting. But that does little to solve the dangerous problem that online threats and harassment pose to so many.

And it’s fair to wonder what took so long. Kiwi Farms has been implicated in the suicide deaths of three different trans people, according to Vice, and has seriously affected the lives of countless others.

My personal journey with Kiwi Farms has been a long and frankly strange experience, and a testament to the treacherous nature of an online harassment culture.

On Monday, the new Russian provider of the DDoS-Guard site terminated service again for the site, just days after Kiwi Farms switched to its service. It is currently using a new host, VanwaTech, which has historically had no problem serving the scum of the internet like the Nazi site The Daily Stormer.

My personal journey with Kiwi Farms has been a long and frankly strange experience, and a testament to the treacherous nature of an online harassment culture. Things that probably made me an attractive target for message board users were my trans identity, my fledgling career as a journalist, and a small but growing social media presence (I had just over 2,000 Twitter followers when I was first doxed).

Back in 2017, I was tipped off that I was on Kiwi Farms’ radar by a friend who was monitoring the site for names of acquaintances. Someone had posted that they had discovered my dox, personally identifiable information intended to be posted on the internet for the purpose of bullying or harassing someone. I immediately got to work cleaning up my online presence.

I deleted the inactive Facebook account I had in my dead name since 2007. That meant a decade of internet life gone in an instant, but a small price to pay to protect my family and loved ones. I deleted my LinkedIn account. I even messaged an administrator of a UMass sports fan forum asking if it would be possible to delete my account there, which I had been posting to since 2004 – another 13 years of living on the internet have faded away.

I also deleted an old Twitter account that I created in 2007 primarily to follow American Football and Major League Soccer news, and to live tweet UMass sporting events, which I later discovered was which had led to my dox. Back in 2015, I replied to a thread about running and mentioned my full legal name and the state I lived in. That was all it took. A single tweet from years ago. From there, Kiwi Farms users were able to find the public listing of my legal name change registration, which in Maine listed my address and phone number. Just like that, all my years of trying to protect myself online, from creating a pseudonym for my writing work to carefully protecting where I lived and worked, were all gone in an instant.

None of this stopped my doxing, though I suspect cleaning up my internet history limited any damage that could have been done to my privacy. For the first year or so, I regularly checked my Kiwi Farms feed to see what users were saying about me. At first I used the excuse I needed to monitor the site “for dangerous threats”. Later I realized that it had become a bit of an addiction, an understandable compulsion to know what strangers were saying about me.

Sometimes I would annoy Kiwi Farms users by picking out the most obviously made-up things they said about me and tweeting about it. Other times they would try to analyze my tweets and piece together the most outrageous life story of Katelyn Burns. They said I ditched my wife and kids to get “fucked” by a different man every night after tweeting about a handful of dates after my divorce. They made up a theory that I was obsessed with another trans writer because I replied to her tweets and she only replied sometimes.

It was the kind of college rumor mill that any normal person would see through in an instant. But it still had an impact on me. For a while, Kiwi Farms was in the top results when you Googled my name. I wonder how many editors at writing jobs I applied for found my thread after I applied.

This is of course the whole point of the site: getting into your head. As a target of Kiwi Farms, the more you hinted that you were thinking of them, the happier they would be. For trans people in particular, who are more likely to socialize primarily online after friends and family abandoned them post-transition, Kiwi Farms was particularly dangerous.

For trans people in particular, who are more likely to socialize primarily online after friends and family abandoned them post-transition, Kiwi Farms was particularly dangerous.

Eventually I figured out that the best way to deal with Kiwi Farms was to ignore it. Its biggest appeal is the fact that the site is home to real sociopaths who aren’t shy about trying to find you in real life. They want a target to feel threatened because that sense of threat ensures that targets are always on edge, consumed with watching them.

The entire episode with Sorrenti shows how this can unfold. More physical threats mean targets are more likely to monitor their own chat threads on the site for any warning signs.

Over time, I discovered that Kiwi Farms had an effect on what I posted online. After moving from the address they doxed in Washington, DC, I never said definitively what neighborhood I lived in. If I was going somewhere, I wouldn’t tweet about it until I got home. I always checked that none of the photos I uploaded showed any identifiable landmarks outside my apartment window. I once posted a selfie from the backyard of my apartment complex and then worried someone was scrolling through a map of DC on google satellite view trying to find the plants and fake grass background. I’ve never tweeted about my personal life outside of vague thoughts. I wouldn’t even go so far as to follow someone I was dating on social media. These are things that most people take for granted, but Kiwi Farms’ targets don’t have that luxury.

I also limited the thoughts I expressed publicly. If I knew a particular tweet would get attention, I often backed out of posting it. No other force in the history of my life has restricted my freedom of expression as much as Kiwi Farms.

The key to navigating all of this has been to ignore it, although I still have a friend watching the dark web on my Kiwi Farms feed in case I get doxed again in my new place, or any information on one of my family members surfaces.

Kiwi Farms caused untold damage and threatened the safety of hundreds of targets. It is undoubtedly a good thing that the scope of the site has been at least significantly reduced. But even if Kiwi Farms is permanently shut down in all forms one day, its users will still be here afterward. And people like me will continue to censor and monitor our own voices on the internet. The terrible people on the internet aren’t going anywhere.

About Chris Stevenson

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