Monday, 14 February 2011

#ProjV : Rumours

It's sad to think that I was near prophetic when I stated that the hatemongering against disabled people would intensify as we neared the (original) deadline of the Consultation on DLA Reform. The relentless onslaught against "scroungers" and "fakers" continues unabated, each new revelation more tawdry than the one that preceded it. I  can take no pleasure in being proven right.

As I write this, a disturbing rumour has reached me, and not for the first time today. Late this evening, as the #ProjV Twitter campaign started the slow ebb towards it's official end, I received the following communique:

"A fellow spoonie Twitter user got in touch with me by email today to tell me that he won't be using social media anymore and it has got me thinking about it.

Apparently ATOS will be delving into the internet to find evidence to use against people for their medicals e.g. using the computer for longer than 10 minutes at a time, communicating with people via Twitter or Facebook.  I stated in my medical that I did use a mobile phone and PC but I'm still concerned about it.

Have you heard anything in the media about this?"

Here are my thoughts, such as they are:
  1. There are far too many of us for ATOS to keep track of.
  2. ATOS don't have the manpower for that level of surveillance. Time in-and-of-itself wouldn't be adequate "proof" of deception.
  3. They would have to be aware that thanks to technology, a #spoonie can be in bed or sprawled across the sofa on their mobile, iPad, netbook or laptop.
  4. For social media especially - Tweets and FB posts can posted via advanced scheduling without having to actually be online.
  5. It occurs to me that this is a matter of Chinese whispers given  last week's PCC ruling giving newspapers the authority to use Tweets (whether in the public interest or not). Also for consideration is the decidedly inappropriate behaviour of a certain infamous Tory MP via blogging and Twitter towards a constituent and her  equally inappropriate and incredible offensive cheerleading sidekick who threatened that her detractors were being "watched" (whatever that means).

Now, have I thought about such a scenario before? Yes. It comes with the territory of being online and especially given my increased activism. However, I personally have yet to hear of any such plan in an official capacity - only loose online connections who heard from a friend who heard... etc. Thus far there is no identifiable source for this latest scare tactic. 

I will say this: I refuse to let anyone make me more afraid than I already am - so afraid that I become even more withdrawn and cut off from the world due to being housebound. For myself and many others,  disability means being abandoned by so-called "friends" and even family. In this Digital Age, the internet and social media are not luxuries.  The truest and dearest friends I have are people I haven't even physically met.

My only suggestion would be to not worry and/or take a rash action until you actually have a reason to. 


Suggested reading:  "Frequent tweeting doesn't make one a benefit cheat, Nadine Dorries"


OldManKelv said...

Apart from my support-worker taking me shopping, I have indeed been Tweeting, or rather retweeting from my bed all day.

david said...

What does using a computer prove in terms of ability of disability? Are they going to count the number of keystrokes per remote machine??! What happens if you prepare a document over days and then cut and paste it in?

I`m in the right frame of mind to kick the shit out of any ATOS fuckers and / or send them a parcel bomb!

Erika said...

You have done such a great job, so well done. I totally agree the threat is there but I think thats why for example the facebook page is so quiet, people ARE worried about being seen to doing to much.

But if we all posted anon then we would be accused of hiding, we dont have anything to hide, anyone who things typing be it on line screen keyboard or laying down or all day equals fit then we are all doomed anyway.

Im not going be bullied into not posting, its not like we have much chance at the moment anyway, not looking like we will have anything to lose.

The amazing thing is despite all our problems and the engery and dedication it takes for us to communicate - most people could'nt imagine. Just look at all those people in Egypt who stood up despite knowing they could be arrested for it. Just takes few people to lead the way. Keep it up guys!

Anonymous said...

Oh for goodness sake... I could be lying in bed writing this with my mouth or dictating it via voice recognition software... ATOS simply aren't that clever or subtle.

Claire said...

I hope it's okay that I've linked to this blog from mine.
This issue is so important, and we shouldn't be living in fear- but we do- and not just about using the computer. I have friends who have seen me hobble from one room to another holding the furniture and hence say they think I could probably do without a wheelchair- WTF?
Good luck with the campaign.

Visually Impaired said...

I too agree with the previous posters, ATOS quite simply aren't that clever. I can however forsee them picking on three or four high profile cases and trying to make something stick

Iconic Imagery said...

"I too agree with the previous posters, ATOS quite simply aren't that clever. I can however forsee them picking on three or four high profile cases and trying to make something stick"

I agree that if anything, there would be a few high profile cases to push the envelope. As it happens we have already had one:

All three main parties have done a great disservice to disabled people, including very shocking public displays of bullying behaviour even on the campaign trail:!/photo.php?fbid=10150091964314900&set=o.168974116448003&theater

ATOS will take whatever directive imposed upon them because that's what their contract pays them to do. Sadly there are too many of the wrong people who think like this - and they just happen to be at Westminster.

disaffected said...

This does worry me, but I would like more confirmation. This is actually something that I've wondered about myself in the past, but if they want to try and use this against me, they'll see that I only use the PC in short bursts (as long as my pain allows me to) and often this is done from bed. Many people are able to Tweet/FB on their phones these days anyway. Using the internet isn't much of an indication of disability, I would think. Except for those of us who are unfortunate enough to have lost both hands/arms.

So, I guess I'm not too worried now, but it's something to think about as I know my claim for DLA is up for renewal in a few months.

Dave Neenhan said...

It's not too far fetched to think of ATOS or Government Departments using intelligence level analytics software to target people and sift through personal stuff they've shared on social networking and other sites to gather and collate information on their online activities , relationships , purchases or whatever .

Data trawling can be easily automated so its hardly a matter of 'effort' and it's wishful thinking to pretend that companies like ATOS and Government Departments aren't clever enough or lack the resources and motivation to trawl information people have knowingly or otherwise shared about themselves and each other online if it helps them hit their targets.

After all, ATOS is an information technology business.

Various Government agencies will probably also show a keen interest in anyone involved in successful grassroots campaigning outside of the compromised registered charity model. Again, people are putting their personal information out there so here's some free advice from someone diagnosed with a paranoid personality disorder, if you have anything at all to hide beyond browsing the odd porn site or being one of the top contributors on the Cliff Richards fan site, assume the rumours are true and take some steps to cover your digital tracks.

Anonymous said...

So its a case of damned if we do (get on the internet and complain and share) and damned if we don't (no action0.

So do we have the Stazi to fear, as well as a government that seems to view the sick and disabled as "useless eaters"?

Surely intruding into our personal internet use and drawing conclusions about entitlement to ESA must be a transgression of human rights?

I have been on the net about all this because it has upset me so much. One of the reasons my GP recently referred me to emergency psychiatric intervention was due to the fact that I had been writing a lot. I've hardly thought about anything else for months...and this could be used against me, or others on the net?!!

That beggars belief. this country would have stooped even lower than ever if this came to pass. I thought we were living in a democracy. (Ok we know we aren't under this coalition, but it's not supposed to be like East Germany and Russia were). The Lives of Others? - Perhaps if they did look at what and where we say things they might begin to understand...?

Oya's Daughter said...

I honestly don't care if they do. Let them come. I refuse to allow them to threaten me into silence - "We'll take away your money if you don't shut up" isn't going to fly with me. I've been homeless before, I know how to deal with it if I have to, but I certainly will not allow for the bullying tactics.

Bring it! What else have I got to lose?

Anonymous said...

Must admit that I sometimes do look over my shoulder when I am trying to get the shopping in from the car, incase anyone is filming me!! But what does it prove if I use the computer - that I am up a lot in the night, that I never use the computer in the mornings - there could be many reasons for this pater, not just disability.

Besides which the computer could be on because I am reading a lot, or because I have my head down on the desk and I am fast asleep!

Anonymous said...

But the atmosphere of fear works. I was quite actively involved in the anti-cuts movement until someone I respect and who possibly knows more about such things than me, warned me that public activism could well be used against me and result in a loss of benefits. I know that all this fear mongering is ridiculous but I can't help letting it effect me. I have withdrawn from obvious activism. I seem to be afraid all the time.

MRadclyffe said...

The DWP have been using the internet to trawl for information for a while: it seems inevitable that ATOS will follow suit. I was accused of writing books I never had to good fortune to because another author had my name - and the DWP were about to charge me for fraud because of it! And all because they just typed my name into Google.

Fuck 'em. It's not against the law to turn on a computer and blog, either doing it yourself or using assistive technology either, and until it is, they can't take away benefits.

I admit, since I've had 4 interviews over minor matters in the past 3 years, I'm fairly paranoid myself that I'm being filmed, followed online and generally targeted - it's contributed to my agoraphobia. But don't self-censor - that's exactly what they want: to drive the emerging voice of the disabled back into its silent corner.