I posted this elsewhere, but members who are not in that group also need to know this information.

I have been a member of Atheist Nexus since 2008.  As I have been house cleaning some old posts, I realized that people who have not been active for 5,6,7,8 years, still have their name and photo on those posts.

Please be aware, that posts left active on Atheist Nexus can be hazardous to members who have been gone for many years, and also members who are currently active. In most states, there is no protection for openly atheist people regarding employment, housing, or employment.  Even when that discrimination is illegal, those doing the discriminating don't always tell you why.   People may not be aware of discrimination, and may not be aware that their old posts are still there to come back and haunt them.  It's not something that everyone thinks about when they are excited to find a community with whom they have much in common.

There has been at least one case of a member of Atheist Nexus experiencing employment discrimination due to their membership.

Another member of Atheist Nexus was murdered in India, in 2011 (Ajita Kamal). He was an evolutionary biologist, and very active in the freethought community in the USA and India.  As far as I can tell, the perpetrator and motive were never found, but Kamal was a known atheist.  Known atheists, including those who are active on the internet, are frequently targeted for brutal killings in South Asia.

Any member who posts, without having their own photo or name on their screen name and avatar, is expressing implied agreement about the importance of privacy, even on the internet.   I removed my photo, when I learned of the member taking screenshots.  As has recently been done, posts on Atheist Nexus can subjected to screenshots, including by members of Atheist Nexus. They may also be subjected to internet search.

I have recently closed groups that I am no longer able to moderate, for personal reasons.   Some members were very unhappy with me, and expressed that,  feeling that their posts in the groups should be immortal and I was taking something away from them.  Imagine, that a conversation could be present for years, even a decade, for anyone with access to read.  This concept strikes me as eerie, but is the reality on Atheist Nexus.  But members thought that their conversations should be saved, permamently, even though  I gave extended notice, and multiple notifications, including emails to every member of one group, and repeated notices in the comments of the other, and recommended that members review their posts to keep for themselves, favorite materials that they posted.  Even so, members expressed dismay, apparently feeling that Atheist Nexus is a site for permanent self-publication (sometimes of what appears to me to be significant amounts of quoted materials from copyrighted works of others, which may violate copyright law).   One member did screenshots, for re-publication in a new Atheist Nexus group, granted with asking permission of members for the republication, after my objection.

We need to be aware on this website that there are potential serious consequences to supposed immortality of posted materials.  We have a responsibility for the  potential consequences of old, as well as new, posts  and materials.  We can't predict what those consequences may be.   We can't think that this is an exclusive group, complain frequently about the bad behavior of theists toward atheists, and then act as though there is no problem with leaving material on the website that could come back to haunt unsuspecting members.

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One of many reasons I will never use a picture of me as an avatar....not to mention......seeing myself in a mirror everyday is more than enough. 

Daniel, I fully get your POV as it comes to this.  I still remember an incident regarding A|N which was a total surprise for me and forced me to recognize that, despite not being open to believers, Atheist Nexus remains very much a PUBLIC venue.  In my case, I think it caused me to want to be that much more open and assertive about my atheism and thus I have no problem having old posts and comments reprinted.

Nonetheless, I do very much respect the wishes of those who no longer participate in this forum not to have their participation replicated, and I fully get that.

Loren, I remember that happening to you.  I'm glad it turned out well for you.

Nexus is closed to nontheists, and generally not considered public, but you are right, it shows up in google searches.  In an era when privacy is more an more difficult to maintain, we need to be aware of that.

Thinking more about this post, there are other aspects that we need to consider when it comes to privacy.

Nexus would probably be easy to hack - or the larger Ning network that is the system for Atheist Nexus, if someone is so motivated.  After all, every time I log in via Firefox, the browser tells me the site is not secure, and makes me jump over some hurdles to complete logging in.  We hear about hacks regularly, for example the massive Equifax security breach; the Yahoo hack originally thought to be just 500million members, then a billion, then several billion, and in reality every Yahoo member; the US Postal service, Anthem health plan, UPS, Target, Goodwill, Jimmy Johns, NY State, Dairy Queen...  on and on.

Atheist murdered in Arizona for not believing in God.

Multiple murders of secular bloggers in Bangladesh.  And here.

And India.  (We've had some members in Indian and Pakistan.  I wonder what has happened to them).

And Yemen.

Death Penalty for Atheism in 12 countries.

Vilification of Atheists in USA, with discrimination in legal, social, personal, and professional contexts.

I never knew the reason why I was hounded out of an office where I worked and performed in exemplary manner for 10 years - there could have been several reasons.  Being openly atheist might have been part of it.  Usually, coworkers and employers don't tell you, "We are discriminating against you and treating you generally like shit, because you are  ..."

Not everyone has the fight in them, at all times, in all settings, and not everyone is able to fight back.  Some have more resources than others, are in a different stage of life or different stage of health, different community and different family situation.  That is a large part of why Nexus is officially exclusive for nontheists, and you have to state you are nontheist in order to join.

I don't know that people in countries where it is unsafe, and life threatening, to be atheist, are aware that an American network like Atheist Nexus might be visible in their own country.  People have different levels of sophistication.  That's one reason I think we need to be vigilant about keeping them aware and avoid posting things that will cause them danger.

Thanks for reminding us again, Daniel. While my avatar is often real, I do change my name around to avoid those who might use my posts against me. For example, I work around (and with) people who absolutely adore Donald Trump and if you do not share this with them many feel you should leave America. It follows again that you should not have a job or a country. The woman that cuts my hair wraps herself in the American flag and thinks Trump is the greatest thing ever. I feel like I'm living in "Nazi America." Another take on it would be living in fear of being "blacklisted as a commie" in the 1940's.

This is exactly the effect Trump wanted to create and it's how he wanted to "make America great again." Just when you thought the biggest problem was theists and what they wished and wanted for you, then we now add the "Trump wrinkle" to all this nonsense. We must beware.

Michael, for people who are retired, have families who are OK with their atheism, or live in nonreligious communities, it may not be a big deal that the world can see their activities on Atheist Nexus.  Others have more to lose, and less security if they do.

I was surprised how easily Atheist Nexus pages show up on google search.  For example, if you google on atheist missouri, the 4th entry is Missouri Atheists on Atheist Nexus. Click on that, and you get photos and comments of Atheist Nexus members.  Look and the photos and think, "maybe I know that guy", click on that photo, and you get the profile page and activity - yours.  You can - and maybe should - change your profile settings to "private".  Do do that, click on "settings" in upper right box, then "privacy", then go through them and change to improve your privacy.

It takes a little more sophistication to see if there are atheists in Arab countries, for example.  But if you know there is a site called "Atheist Nexus" - after all, billed as the biggest atheist community on the internet - and google on "Atheist Nexus Arab", you get all of the profile photos for that group.  Or India, or Pakistan, or a lot of other places with severe penalties, even death, for being atheist or just criticizing Islam.   I'm not going to link from this discussion, but it's similar to what I did for Missouri Atheists.  This is one reason why I think we need active site moderation, and in the case of inactive groups, if no one does anything in a group for some set time, maybe a year, it should be removed.  That would lead to a drastic reduction in the number of groups, maybe more than 90%, but the people there probably don't know that you can find them so easily, and that they could get into big trouble for being on a site they may well have forgotten.

Actually, it's kind of eerie.  I clicked on some members of the Atheist Arab group, and saw a conversation with me, occurring 6 years ago.  I wonder what happened to that member?

I understand that hate and persecution are rising. But I miss being able to share news, such as Jeff Sessions Just Reversed A Policy That Protects Transgender Work... in a group to which it is relevant. Or to discuss race and ethnicity issues in a group interested in them.

I feel as if a piece of my community has been excised, leaving grey squares to torment me in "My Groups", like scars.

I appreciate all of these concerns. While we all should be careful, most of us are no more threatened here than on Facebook or any other social network. As a general rule, don't post things anywhere online that you do not want to be public. 

As noted, the vast majority of threats to atheists come from the Middle East, and members from this region need not be reminded of the threats against them. Most do not use real names, and many of those who do are first contacted to suggest they reconsider before their membership is approved. This happens behind the scenes, so I understand that this is not common knowledge. 

Also, when any member has particular concerns, they often contact us, and we remove their information from our site. A few extra steps and this can be done with Google's search engine as well. However, nothing ever truly disappears. 

Finally, the concerns with security through Firefox and sometimes Chrome has to do with Nexus being an HTTP site and not HTTPS. It really has nothing to do with severe threats and more to do with the fact that our URL is redirected to Ning's servers. 

Again, do not post any information anywhere online that you do not want to be public. 

Any chance of Nexus moving to HTTPS? That would allow internet service providers to see only that someone's going to https://atheistnexus.org/ with no details on the specific pages and topics they're reading or writing about.

I am fully retired from all employment, even volunteer.
I can think of no way in which somebody who disapproves of my religious stance could harm me to any degree.
All my family and most people who know me are aware that I follow no supernatural beings.
I am aware that I am more fortunate than most of you, but if you ever reach my state I invite you to join me in being open, "out," a public non-believer.

Already there, & have been for decades.

Thanks you Daniel. The fact that this conversation has even come up is scary and stresses the importance of the Atheist Nexus community. Most of us will probably have passed before atheists are truly considered mainstream and accepted universally as equals without bigotry. It really sickens me that we actually have to consider the safety of our friends and families because we don't actually believe in fairy tales. 

Good luck with the new direction your life is taking.




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