October 30, 2011

La Gringa needs your help now!

name tag

I want to give a big thank you to all of you who have signed the petition (over 400) and helped to spread the word about my Facebook pseudonym name issue, and especially to those of you who have written such wonderful comments on the petition. I have literally been overwhelmed reading those comments. I wish I could thank everyone personally, but I don't have email addresses for the majority of my Facebook friends.

I could still use your help. If you can sign or help to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, your blog, or elsewhere, I would be very grateful.

Please sign the online petition here. Your name can be hidden from public view if you desire that.

Banning backfires

Like a banned book, trying to silence ideas often backfires. The Blogicito has reached readership levels not attained since the 2009 political crisis from those curious to see what the fuss is all about. Welcome to my new subscribers during the past week, too.

Even though I can't post links to my articles on Facebook, you can. Just click the Facebook "Like" button at the end of this or any article to share it on your FB page. You can also click the Twitter button to tweet an article or the "mail" button to email it to a friend. If you are reading this article from the daily email, click the title of the article to go to the blog.

What did I do?

Here is my confession: I signed up for Facebook in July 2007, only on a whim to see what it was all about (I blogged about it). I DID NOT read Facebook's guidelines (which may or may not have changed since then) — just like 95% of the people who sign up for our Honduras discussion group do not read the guidelines and just like most people do not when they sign up for any website to make a comment or read a forum. Guilty as charged!

But that didn't get me kicked off Facebook during more than four years of active use. What else did I do? I wrote about crime and corruption in Honduras, which many people for various reasons don't want you to know about.

Who is La Gringa?

I am the same 'La Gringa' here on the Blogicito, in online discussion groups, in emails, in comments on news and blogs, and Twitter — as well as formerly on Facebook and Google+. Websites like Honduras Weekly and PJ Media have pubished my articles using my pen name.

'La Gringa' is the name that everyone knows me by and the proof of that is that the vast majority of my 1,200 Facebook friends found me through that name. 'La Gringa' (me!) has a wide internet presence and doesn't use a pseudonym to deceive, troll, abuse, start flamewars, spam, or any other nefarious purpose — that is easily proven. Long time readers may not know my name but they probably know more about me and my life than they do some of their real life neighbors.

During September, 49% of readers came to my blog through searches, and by far the most common search terms were "La Gringa", "La Gringa blog", or some variation of those terms. It's my name, it's my pseudonym, it's my nickname, it's me!

Certainly Google, above all, has a long history of my web activity since they have been hosting my Blogicito and email for more than five years. I'm inextricably tied to Google through those services, Google Reader, Picasa, Feedburner, and a myriad of other Google products, all under the same ID.

I was successfully able to "authenticate" my Google+ ID, which instructions say must be the "common name" that your friends and family know you by. By going through the several complicated steps to tie it to my online presence I was able to prove that I was truly that 'La Gringa'. But a month or so later Google+ also unceremoniously dumped 'La Gringa' without a question or a warning. Yet Google Search continues to list my Blogicito at or among the top websites for Honduran-related searches.

How to get credibility?

One friend insists that I would have more credibility if I used a name, even if it was a false one. The concept that lying could give me more credibility is astounding to me. I don't think credibility depends upon a name. Who of us knows with certainty whether our online acquaintances or favorite bloggers are using their real names? Does it matter? I think credibility has to be earned over time. But even if it would benefit me or the Blogicito, I would feel like I was deceiving people, many of whom I consider friends. I think that I've earned my 1,460 readers' trust over the years. If I haven't, I doubt that a name would have changed anyone's opinion.

One credible writer using his own name, Federico Álvarez, a naturalized Honduran citizen, was successfully silenced by Honduran government action. His citizenship was revoked with the threat that if he continued writing opinion pieces for La Tribuna [in Spanish] as a legal resident, it could result in him being expelled from the country in which he has lived for almost 35 years!

Zelaya supporters who opposed Álvarez's opinions very vocally cheered this government action, while still hypocritically crying to the world about the repression of their own free speech. Through a lengthy court battle which has gone to the Supreme Court, Álvarez may get his citizenship back, but whether or not he will ever resume published writing, I don't know.

When a former Ambassador from Costa Rica who has received prestigious awards from two Honduran presidents and is a well-known businessman with 3 1/2 decades of powerful business and political ties can be silenced, I have no delusions that I couldn't be as well.

Not going to do it

But the main point for me is that I have been seriously threatened and relentlessly harassed over the years by those who don't like some of the topics that I write about or my strong opinions. Some of those people sounded rabidly psycopathic to me. I live in a country where the police can't protect even the lives of its people or its journalists, where people are afraid to say too much about corruption or crime because often the police are involved, and where the murder rate is the highest in the world. The police don't have the resources or technology to investigate murders much less online crime, and I sincerely doubt that they have the interest.

Honduran friends warn me all the time to "be careful" and many say that they pray for me. I made the decision for myself to continue writing and suffer the unpleasantries, but I won't make that decision for my family members in Honduras, who could also be similarly threatened, harassed, or worse.

Bit by bit, I've given more and more personal information to these mega giants. First it was a birthday, then a location, then answers to secret questions. Then they wanted an additional email address — in case of problems. Then it was a phone number — in case of problems! No mas!

I will draw the line at providing a copy of my ID to any online service. There is no guaranty that it will be safe or private, especially with Facebook, which has a long history of changing security and 'visibility' settings without prior notification to its users. So if that is going to remain their policy, I will respect their decision but I won't be using their services.

I will keep blogging because I love Honduras. But I despise the crime and corruption and the poverty and ignorance in which the politicians have been able to keep the majority of its people. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one, something that seems hard for some people to accept.


Because of my personal situation, I've learned a lot about the "nymwars" (name wars) controversy going on all over the internet right now and I'll share some of that with you in the next article.


Please sign the online petition here. Your name can be hidden from pubic view if you desire that.

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