I was thinking recently, how lucky I am that the only time I encounter covid related nonsense is online, for instance if I make an increasingly infrequent visit to a ‘news’ website. Whilst covid is very much real for those who remain vulnerable to it (since the drugs don’t actually work), for the rest of us in London at least, real world covid has long gone. Except, it hasn’t.
I am increasingly noticing an enhanced layer of censorship and surveillance in everyday life which was not there pre-covid. Worse, these organisations are attempting to redefine reality by insisting that the censorship and surveillance is something other than what it is. They try to couch it in terms of being good for me, of protecting me from some form of risk or harm. That might work on an idiot, but not me. My superpower is to see through to the truth of things.
An example: I recently changed broadband providers and my new one, Three, censors the internet by default. More, they do not allow customers to remove the censorship themselves via their account, and insist on additional security checks and credit searches to allow customers to access all of the internet. Three call this censorship an ‘adult content filter’ which is both laughable and offensive since censored sites include YouGov and the Advocacy Project.
Moreover, even if some might prefer to have the internet censored, this should not be the default option: it should be opt in, not opt out. If I am adult enough to enter into a contract, then I am adult enough to make my own decisions about what websites I choose to visit. Given that Three do not notify customers of the default censorship, there is an even greater concern that many will not realise that the unreachable websites are perfectly operational. This is of enormous concern when critical support services like the Advocacy Project are censored. What harm may come to a vulnerable person unable to access the support they need?
Another area you see this redefinition increasingly occurring is in banking. Here they call it protecting you from ‘fraud’ when in reality it is surveillance and control. The so-called ‘challenger banks’ like Monzo and Starling excel at this, but I am increasingly noticing it with ordinary high street banks. For instance, recently I decided to move my self-employed tax savings to a different savings account with a higher interest rate. It was a two step move: once from my self-employment bank account to my main current account, and then from there to the linked savings account.
I make transfers from my self-employment income account to my main bank account multiple times a month and the transfers ordinarily occur within minutes. Both accounts are obviously in my name. This time, whilst the money left the self-employment bank immediately, it still had not arrived with my main account by the following day. When I called up, alarmed, I was told that the transfer had been seized for ‘fraud’. How the fuck transferring money between two bank accounts in my own name, transfers that I have made multiple times before, could meet anyone’s definition of fraud is beyond me. Naturally I kicked off and the money was immediately released, but there was no justification for its seizure in the first place and the bank (Coop) refused to explain their actions, nor will they accept a complaint regarding the seizure as they say they will not respond to it.
I increasingly think that banks have forgotten whose money it is they hold (and make money off). Since a similar thing happened to someone I know with two other high street banks, I know this is not an isolated incident. What asset seizures like this demonstrate is how untrustworthy banks are, and worse, how powerless we are to stop them seizing control of our assets. And they are asset seizures, even if only temporary: by removing our money from our accounts, these banks have demonstrated the power they have to prohibit us accessing our own funds. What if they had not released my money when I complained? There would have been nothing I could have done.
The obvious parallel here is what happened with the Canadian truckers whose assets were frozen because Justin Trudeau is a tyrant with the backing of the supranational elite. The illiberal and censorious turn of the world suggests to me that we will be looking at more and more asset seizures of ordinary people doing ordinary enough things, which just so happen to fall foul of anything those in power decide.
Digital surveillance is real, what’s worse is that so many people don’t seem to care nor comprehend the implications. For instance, more and more people are finding themselves victim of utterly baseless ‘fraud’ accusations by the DWP which tie them up in red tape and legal challenges for years, all the while devastating people’s mental health and leaving them in debt and dire circumstances. This could easily be you, should you be on the wrong end of an algorithm or have your records mixed up with someone else’s, so it would pay you to be alarmed in advance.
It’s difficult to know what the answer to this problem is, and the problem is only going to get worse. I am banned from social media for saying such outlandish things as vitamin D is good for the immune system, bodily integrity is a human right, for sharing British Medical Journal articles on how obesity is implicated in poor outcomes for covid, and, I shit you not, for swearing. I rarely read the ‘news’ because the material published by these websites belongs in air quotes not my brain.
So my internetting is already quite limited, compared to others; and in case you are wondering, my life has been vastly enriched by looking at blue skies full of birds rather than my phone or laptop. However, abandoning the interwebs does not solve the issue of censorship, not will it stop the banks seizing my money should they find something ‘fraudulent’ about me again.
This is more than an illiberal turn we are witnessing. It is something broader, bigger, and more worrisome. You might think that dirty unvaxxed miscreants like me deserve this, but don’t be dumb enough to think it won’t be you next.