How Can Mayors Protect Themselves From Online Attacks?

We’ve updated our event post with some new resources on this topic!

More than ever, mayors and other public officials face scrutiny not only on the basis of policies but on the use of social media and other digital spaces. Mayors face a barrage of online harassment, with real fears of that harassment escalating into stalking, doxxing, and physical threats. These concerns are worse for mayors who are women, and they intersect with the need for city officials to not run afoul of laws or regulations regarding first amendment rights, as is perhaps best demonstrated by President Trump’s use of Twitter’s block feature.

We are excited to partner with the Digital Defense Fund on Friday, November 4 to offer a session on how mayors can protect their privacy online and prevent harassment. This session is sponsored by the Women Mayors’ Network and Equity Agenda. This session will be tailored to the unique needs of mayors, who as public figures must consider their own safety and well-being, as well as take seriously how security threats can derail their agenda.

Some of the most important ways mayors can protect themselves include:

  • Review your online presence and remove personal data where possible;
  • Create public-facing social media accounts and make personal accounts private;
  • Use a password manager in conjunction with unique passwords across websites;
  • Make a plan in the case of online harassment escalating into physical threats, including a safe place to go if your home address is public.

Digital security is not only an issue for mayors. Weak security protocols have led to ransomware attacks on cities and public agencies. Mayors can protect their cities from such attacks by collaborating with department heads and city managers to implement security trainings and secure software, as cities such as Los Angeles have done. Additionally, mayors can use their platform to highlight this issue, turning a private concern into an agenda item to improve constituents’ lives. For example, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome of Baton Rouge, LA held a Cyber Security Awareness Month.