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My experience as a target of Kiwi Farms speaks to a scary truth about internet culture

Even with Kiwi Farms curbed, terrible people on the internet aren’t going anywhere.
Illustration: Cursors coming at a floating user profile from all sides.
Kiwi Farms users have made the internet a dangerous place, for trans people in particular.MSNBC / Getty Images

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

It’s a good thing that Kiwi Farms is mostly dead now.

The website, Kiwi Farms, has documented everything I put out on the internet since that initial doxing in 2017.

Kiwi Farms is an extensive message board platform dedicated to documenting and mocking a wide array of people on the internet, from influencers to journalists, to random individuals Kiwi Farms users happen to become fixated on. Of particular interest to many of the site’s users have been trans people, who they have labeled “troons,” a derogatory portmanteau of “tranny” and “goon.” Probably the best way to describe the site’s users is terminally online people from a wide range of political ideologies, from far right and anti-trans feminist types to edgy lefties obsessed with consuming internet drama.

The site is an old-school message board, where any user with an account can make a post on one of the board’s many threads, each featuring a different target. Most often, a subgroup of users will dedicate much time to digging up personal identifying information. Some targets have had their addresses or phone numbers posted on the forum; other targets have seen their friends and family doxed as well.

The harassment extends beyond online stalking; last month, Republican Congress member Marjorie Taylor Greene was swatted, meaning someone sent a fake emergency report to the police alleging to be at a target’s address, so that police show up and arrest the target. The person who took responsibility for the swatting claimed to be a Kiwi Farms user, saying they were 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 last several weeks, transgender streamer Clara Sorrenti, known as Keffals, has been pursued around the world by the doxers and stalkers of Kiwi Farms.

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

It was this threat that seemingly, at last, broke the camel’s back for the site. Late last week, the DDOS protection service Cloudflare terminated its services for Kiwi Farms, essentially driving the platform off the mainstream internet.

It’s a good thing that Kiwi Farms is mostly dead now. In the end, its demise is a victory for free speech and the social exchange of experiences and ideas. No one likes a band of random people running around monitoring and policing what anyone is putting online. But it hardly solves the dangerous problem online threats and stalking pose to so many people.

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

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

In early September, the site’s new Russian provider DDoS-Guard terminated service again for the site, just days after Kiwi Farms shifted to their service. It’s currently up using a new host, VanwaTech, which historically has had no problem servicing the dregs of the internet like the Nazi site The Daily Stormer.

My own personal journey with Kiwi Farms has been a long and frankly strange experience, and speaks to the treacherous nature of a culture of online harassment. The things that likely made me an attractive target for the message board’s users were my trans identity, my young journalism career and a small but growing social media presence (I had a little more than 2,000 Twitter followers when I was first doxed).

In 2017, I had been given a heads-up that I was on Kiwi Farms’ radar by a friend who used to monitor the site for mentions of acquaintances' names. Someone had posted that they had discovered my dox, personal identifying information meant to be released on the internet in an effort to intimidate or harass someone. I immediately went to work cleansing my online presence.

I deleted the dormant Facebook account I had had in my deadname since 2007. It 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 admin at a UMass sports fan message board asking if it would be possible to delete my account there, which I had been posting on since 2004 — another 13 years of internet life gone.

I also deleted an old Twitter account I had made in 2007 mainly to follow U.S. soccer and Major League Soccer news, and to live-tweet UMass sporting events, which I found out later was what led to my dox. In 2015, I had 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 that, Kiwi Farms users were able to find the public listing of my legal name change record, which in Maine listed my address and phone number. Just like that, all my years of trying to keep myself safe online, from creating a pen name for my writing work to carefully guarding where I lived and worked, all vanished in an instant.

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

Sometimes I messed with Kiwi Farms users by picking out the most obviously made-up stuff they’d say about me and tweeting about it. Other times they’d try to parse my tweets and splice together the most outrageous Katelyn Burns life story. They said I abandoned my wife and kids to get “butt blasted” by a different man every night after I tweeted about a handful of dates I went on after my divorce. They made up a theory that I was obsessed with another trans writer because I would reply to her tweets and she only sometimes replied back.

It was the kind of middle school 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 among the top results when you Googled my name. I wonder how many editors at writing jobs I applied for found my thread after my application.

This, of course, is the entire point of the site: to get in your head. As a target of Kiwi Farms, the more you let on that you thought about them, the happier they would get. For trans people in particular, who are more likely to have a mostly online social life after friends and family abandon them after transitioning, Kiwi Farms was especially dangerous.

For trans people in particular, who are more likely to have a mostly online social life after friends and family abandon them after transitioning, Kiwi Farms was especially dangerous.

Eventually I figured out that the best way to deal with Kiwi Farms was to ignore it. Its biggest draw is the fact that the site harbors some real sociopaths who have no qualms about trying to find you in real life. They want a target to feel threatened because that feeling of threat ensures that targets are always on edge, consumed with watching out for them.

The entire episode with Sorrenti shows how this can play out. More physical threats mean it’s more likely that targets will monitor their own threads on the site for potential warning signs.

Over time, I found Kiwi Farms had an effect on what I posted online. After moving away from the address they doxed to Washington, D.C., I never said definitively which neighborhood I lived in. If I went somewhere, I wouldn’t tweet about it until after I got home. I always checked to make sure that none of the pictures I put online showed any identifiable landmarks outside my apartment window. One time I posted a selfie from the courtyard at my apartment complex and then worried someone might comb through a map of D.C. on Google satellite view to try to find the plants and fake grass in the background. I never tweeted about my personal life outside of vague thoughts. I wouldn’t even go so far as to follow anyone I was dating on social media. These are things most people take for granted, but Kiwi Farms targets don’t have that luxury.

I limited what thoughts I put out publicly as well. If I knew a particular tweet would draw attention, I would often forgo posting it. No other force in the history of my life has restricted my free speech as much as Kiwi Farms did.

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

Kiwi Farms has caused untold damage and threatened the safety of hundreds of targets. It’s unquestionably a good thing that the site’s reach has been at least greatly curtailed. But even if Kiwi Farms is someday permanently shut down in all its forms, its users will still be around afterward. And people like me will continue to censure and monitor our own voices on the internet. Terrible people on the internet aren’t going anywhere.