A cashless society as a tool for censorship and social control

The Atlantic had the excellent idea of commissioning Sarah Jeong, one of the most astute technology commentators on the Internet (previously), to write a series of articles about the social implications of technological change: first up is an excellent, thoughtful, thorough story on the ways that the "cashless society" is being designed to force all transactions through a small number of bottlenecks that states can use to control behavior and censor unpopular political views.

Even if you like the idea of racists and jihadis and human traffickers being limited in their crowdfunding and financial ambitions, the power to control commerce at a fine-grained level, combined with the scale at which transactions flow, means that these restrictions end up being a dragnet, not a speargun. When you fish with a dragnet, you always catch some dolphins along with your tuna.

Eden Alexander fell ill in the spring of 2014. It started when she suffered a severe allergic reaction to a prescribed medication. Then by her account, when she sought medical attention, the care providers declined to treat her, assuming that the problem was illegal drug use.

Alexander is a porn actress. According to her, she was profiled and discriminated against, and failed to receive due medical care. In the end, she developed a staph infection. She couldn't work, and she struggled to take care of herself, let alone her medical bills, her apartment, her rent, her dogs.

Her friends and supporters—many of whom were also in the adult entertainment industry—started a crowdfunding campaign on the GiveForward platform, hoping to cover her medical expenses. She had raised over a thousand dollars when the campaign was shut down and the payments were frozen.

GiveForward said that her campaign had violated the terms of service of their payment processor, WePay: "WePay's terms state that you will not accept payments or use the Service in connection with pornographic items."

A few hours after Alexander received the notice via email, and posted about it on Twitter, she had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

How a Cashless Society Could Embolden Big Brother
[Sarah Jeong/The Atlantic]

(Image: American Cash, Psychonaught)